Google has been banned in China for nearly six years, but it seems to have caught a lucky break over the weekend. Users report they could perform Google searches, but only for a couple of hours.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that at around 11.30pm local time on Sunday, Chinese users were surprised to be able to access Google’s long-forbidden search engine. SCMP also said a quick block made the site unavailable at around 1.15am on Monday.
Other local publications like Pingwest, a tech blog, said Google access was available for Chinese users from around 8 pm or 9 pm on Sunday; they could also use other services like Google Photos, Google Drive, and Google Play. Gmail and YouTube remained behind the firewall.
Neither Google nor China offered an official explanation for the surprising availability of the search engine, but some local publications think it was caused by the U.S. firm bringing some new servers online in the region.
It’s possible that the IP addresses of the servers weren’t yet recognized by the Great Firewall, hence their brief freedom across it. This is the most recent example that the censorship firewall isn’t immune to malfunctioning or occasional mishaps.
For those unfamiliar with the term, the so-call Great Firewall is a term the media outside China uses to describe the nation’s strict online censorship program. Non-compliant services are automatically blocked in mainland China, which is exactly what happened with Google.
It was 2010 when the U.S. technology giant’s search service was blocked in China after the company refused to abide by the requirements of the government’s censorship.
Reports say that other foreign sites that are trying to get into China again (we’re looking at you, Facebook), had remained blocked. But the surprising unblocking of Google got some people thinking that free speech had made a comeback.
Some users turned to Weibo and WeChat – the popular Chinese social media – to express their bewilderment. “At that moment, I even believed that Google was unblocked and that free speech had come back to China again,” said Li Yue, a Shenzhen-based IT engineer.
Despite being banned in China, Google still has hope for infiltrating the world’s second-largest economy. Over the past years, the tech company has been steadily creating new job opportunities and investing in Chinese start-ups.
As we already said, other U.S. tech firms hope to get a foothold in China. Just like week, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a trip to Beijing to meet with China’s propaganda chief.
Image Source: Turner