Google Gmail Has a Lot of Company on China's Great Firewall Blacklist

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-12-30
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Google Gmail Has a Lot of Company on China's Great Firewall Blacklist
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    Google Gmail Has a Lot of Company on China's Great Firewall Blacklist

    By Don Reisinger
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    Google Won't Play Ball
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    Google Won't Play Ball

    There was a time when Google was available in China. However, after the company was asked one too many times to censor results and abandon some of the core values it stood for, Google decided in 2010 to remove its service in the country before it could be banned outright. Access to all Google.com searches has since been scrubbed from China's network.
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    Now Gmail Access Is MIA
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    Now Gmail Access Is MIA

    The actual blockade against Gmail occurred earlier this year, when the country decided that the email service should not be allowed, along with other platforms the company offers. For a while, access to Gmail was still available via third-party applications. However, in late-December, China banned those services, and now Gmail has gone dark within its borders.
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    Twitter Is Banned Over Worries About Politically Sensitive Chatter
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    Twitter Is Banned Over Worries About Politically Sensitive Chatter

    Access to Twitter has been the subject of an ongoing debate in China. Dating back to 2009, China would ban the service whenever it anticipated a lot of chatter about sensitive political topics or events, such as the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. However, China has officially banned Twitter now. Despite that, Twitter announced that it will open an office in Hong Kong in early 2015 in hopes of improving its relationship with the country next year.
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    China Sees Facebook as a Den of Rumormongers
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    China Sees Facebook as a Den of Rumormongers

    Facebook has long been a target for access restrictions in China, despite the efforts of the world's largest social network's efforts to ease tensions with the Chinese government. Chinese officials have said in the past that Facebook is a place where its citizens are simply given the "ability to spread rumors," which is a big no-no in the country. Unless Facebook can overcome that issue, it's hard to see how the company will dramatically improve relations with the government.
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    Blogspot Goes on the Blacklist in 2009
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    Blogspot Goes on the Blacklist in 2009

    Blogspot site has been banned in the country for years. Blogspot was banned starting in 2009 and has been on the blacklist after the government deemed it a potential breeding ground for rumor-mongering and the sharing of falsehoods. Uncontrolled blogging is a major issue for the Chinese government.
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    China Blocks Instagram Photo Sharing
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    China Blocks Instagram Photo Sharing

    Instagram might be one of the most popular image-sharing services in the world, but earlier this year, China decided to block the service after students started to protest in Hong Kong. Rather than allow for images of the protests to be shared publicly, the Chinese government reportedly banned Instagram to prevent the viral spread of such photos.
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    Baidu Search Competitors Get Short Shrift
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    Baidu Search Competitors Get Short Shrift

    Any Western company operating a service that could compete with China-based search giant Baidu is in deep trouble. An examination of a list of censored sites showed that everything that could compete with Baidu services, including search, mapping apps and cloud storage, has been blocked. China can always find convenient reasons to block the sites, but the truth is that the government wants to protect its favored domestic companies.
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    WordPress Doesn't Play Well in China Either
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    WordPress Doesn't Play Well in China Either

    If Google's Blogger is blocked in China because it can provide a platform for people to share rumors and "falsehoods," it's perhaps no surprise that Wordpress.com has also been censored. Wordpress.com was blocked in 2011 for fear of rumor-mongering and hasn't been seen since in China.
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    Web Users in China Can't Access YouTube Videos
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    Web Users in China Can't Access YouTube Videos

    Given that China isn't so fond of Google, it's perhaps no surprise the company's video-sharing site, YouTube, isn't available to Chinese users. However, China has argued that the ban goes beyond ownership. China is strictly against the sharing of videos that, in some way, could criticize the government or support any protest movement. YouTube is, of course, rife with such content and much more, making it a big target for censorship by the Chinese government.
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    China Selectively Blocks Wikipedia and Other Wikimedia Content
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    China Selectively Blocks Wikipedia and Other Wikimedia Content

    It's hard to pinpoint exactly how China feels about Wikipedia. Depending on the year (or perhaps even the day), the country could block the entire site, particular articles or nothing at all. As of this writing, all Wikipedia pages are accessible, but that can change at any time. China does not allow users to access images on Wikimedia sites.
 

China's Great Wall was built to try to keep out barbarian invaders and foreign influences. But another, more modern Great Wall in China is designed to try to block foreign ideas and influences. It's known as the Great Firewall, which the Chinese government instituted to keep many Western Websites out of its public's eye and, as the nation's leaders say, to protect its people. China has been blocking Websites for years, but recently Google confirmed that its Gmail email platform was no longer available in the country. The reasons are varied, but it all comes back to one fundamental issue the Chinese government has with Western Web companies: They allow the free flow of information and ideas unfiltered from government control. That is an intolerable condition for a government that is always ready to suppress anyone who speaks out against the nation's ruling communist party.  This slide show will cover the many popular Western Web services that have been banned in China and why they were deemed objectionable to Chinese authorities. It will also cover why some of China's blockades of major Websites have sometimes been sporadic and haphazard, at least before they were totally blocked.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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