Google.com blocked in China

Today, Nov 9, 2012, http://www.google.com and http://www.google.com.hk were blocked in China. It's the first time since we started tracking online censorship in China in February last year that this has happened. Here's what we know:

  1. The subdomains http://www.google.com, http://mail.google.com, http://google-analytics.com, http://docs.google.com, http://drive.google.com, http://maps.google.com, http://play.google.com and perhaps many more are all currently DNS poisoned in China. Instead of the real IP addresses, any lookups from China to any of these domains result in the following IP: 59.24.3.173. That IP address is located in Korea and doesn't serve any website at all.
  2. This means that none of these websites, including Google Search, currently work in China, unless you have a VPN or other cirumvention tool.
  3. Using a DNS server outside of China doesn't help. A lookup of www.google.com to 8.8.8.8 is also distorted, by the Great Firewall.
  4. So far you can still access other country versions of Google such as www.google.co.uk.

You can see an overview of different Google sites here: https://en.greatfire.org/search/google-sites. You can choose any of them and test them in real time to stay updated.

Affecting more users than ever

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were all blocked before they attracted more than a small number of users in China. We've argued before that the authorities didn't dare to fully block GMail since it has too many users already. Fully blocking Google goes much further. Google Search is only the second search engine in China (after Baidu) but with an online population of more than 500 million that still leaves it with many millions of daily users. According to Alexa, it's the Top 5 most used website in China. Never before have so many people been affected by a decision to block a website. If Google stays blocked, many more people in China will become aware of the extent of censorship. How will they react? Will there be protests? Check out reactions by Weibo users on FreeWeibo

Temporary or permanent?

The Communist Party of China is currently holding its 18th Party Congress in which new leaders of the party and the country are formally chosen. The fact that Google is blocked now is surely no coincidence. The big question is whether it will be unblocked again once the congress is over. We will closely monitor developments. 

By the way.. Analytics

The fact that http://www.google-analytics.com and https://www.google-analytics.com are blocked doesn't just mean that you can't access the web interface in China. It means that visits by Chinese users won't be tracked by Google anymore. Foreign websites using Google Analytics to track their visitors will currently track 0 users coming from China, whether or not their website itself is blocked.

What to do?

Many VPNs and other circumvention tools have been working poorly or not at all in the last few days. The free iPhone app OpenDoor is still working, though it has also suffered glitches recently. Another method of accessing Google Search is to use one of their other country versions such as http://www.google.co.uk https://www.google.co.uk or http://www.google.ca https://www.google.ca. These may also be blocked of course.

You can also access Google directly using one of their IP addresses. These don't appear to be blocked (yet). Here are some:

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Bing Bests Baidu Censorship

Abstract

Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done.

We recently called for Microsoft to release its transparency report for Bing (as have others - full disclosure, Rebecca sits on our advisory board).  Microsoft has yet to respond to this request. But Xia’s independent research of Bing’s China censorship policy could be regarded as a de facto transparency report for the search engine.

In this thorough study, the results of which we have verified, Xia examined Bing's SERP (search engine results page) for over 30,000 sensitive and nonsensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. Comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing's China filtering practices.

The main findings from Xia’s research include:

  • Bing has a list of “forbidden” terms where no results are shown. 139 such terms have been identified.

  • Bing has a blacklist of websites that it never shows to China users. 329 such websites are identified. (5 have been lifted after our communication with Microsoft.)

Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Setting Bing's Broken Record Straight

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009 as highlighted by Nicholas Kristof. It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft says: “The results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014

Bing practicing Chinese censorship globally

Our latest research indicates that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is censoring English and Chinese language search on its home page in order to exclude certain results. We have also noticed that Bing is practicing subtle censorship with search results. In both instances, Bing is filtering out links and stories that the Chinese authorities would deem damaging.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Massive blocking of foreign media in China

After Tuesday’s report Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite by ICIJ, China blocked a number of major newspaper websites. All websites below were blocked after publishing copies of the original report. They're all listed as the publishing partners for “Chinaleaks” stories on ICIJ's website. The Great Firewall rarely blocks non-Chinese websites. Many of them have published the Chinese version of the report which probably explains the unusual development.

Newspaper

Main Language

Article

http://www.icij.org

English

Chinese

http://www.theguardian.com

English

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Comments

my biggest beef is that translate.google.com was also down for quite significant amount of time. Now, since I was a mere mortal without sophisticated network monitoring algorithms at hand, trying to do some work, i couldn't tell how long it was out for. But i swear that it was down for quite some time. Which was pissing me off -- i mean, translate.google.com. Are you serious???

I believe you're right. Since China poisoned "*.google.com" which would also match translate.google.com subdomain.

Thanks for your workarounds. However, none work at this time, November 12, at 20:42

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