DIGITAL FREEDOM NETWORK: Human rights and cyber-rights news China's ban on Google Web search engine lifted by Bobson Wong, Digital Freedom Network URL: www.dfn.org/news/china/google2.htm (September 12, 2002) China's ban on the popular Google Internet search engine site, discovered by researchers last week, was lifted sometime yesterday. Web users told the Digital Freedom Network that they were able to access the Google site inside China as of yesterday. The reasons for the lifting of the ban are unclear, although the timing might have been related to the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. In the days after the attacks last years, Chinese censors unblocked several major U.S. media sites. China's ban on the part of the Yahoo! site that uses Google's technology remains in place. Several other Western-based news and human rights sites, including the Digital Freedom Network's site (dfn.org), also remain blocked. However, users told DFN that the news section of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which often publishes articles from Western newswire services, is now accessible online after being blocked for at least the past several days. Last week, several newswire services reported that the popular Google search engine was being blocked in China. The reports are based on a testing method developed by Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman, two researchers at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Using Zittrain and Edelman's testing methods indicated that Google's Web site (www.google.com) was being blocked in China. Part of Yahoo! site still blocked In the last several days, several other Web sites that incorporate Google's underlying Web technology in their own search functions have also been blocked. The most prominent example was the U.S.-based Yahoo!, which uses Google's technology as its default search results provider. When a Web search is performed on Yahoo!, results are displayed from both Yahoo!'s directory of Web sites (which is maintained by Yahoo! surfers who visit and categorize sites) and Google's search engine. No part of the Yahoo! site was blocked as of Friday, September 6. Over the weekend, several Chinese users reported on e-mail lists that Google search results were accessible through Yahoo! and other sites. By September 9, Chinese censors responded by blocking search results on Yahoo!'s site from Google's search engine (http://google.yahoo.com). Results from Yahoo!'s directory of sites (http://search.yahoo.com) were temporarily blocked on September 9 but currently remain accessible. Before the ban was lifted, Chinese users had reported that when going to the Google site they were redirected to other sites. One user told the Digital Freedom Network that she was redirected to a Beijing University search engine page that said, "Users visiting Google may be redirected to the Tianwang search engine or other mainland search engines. This has not been caused by Tianwang and neither is it something that Tianwang hopes to see. We hope that surfers can be understanding and forgiving." Chinese-language Yahoo! still accessible Other parts of the Yahoo! site, such as Yahoo!'s mail and discussion groups, appear to be unaffected. The Chinese-language version of Yahoo!, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S.-based Yahoo!, also does not appear to be blocked. Yahoo! China signed the "Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for China Internet Industry," a voluntary pledge by organizations within China to monitor and control Internet content. While parts of the pledge appear benign, signatories also pledge to refrain from production or dissemination "that may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability, contravene laws and regulations and spread superstition and obscenity." In practice, such information is generally understood to mean material related to such taboo topics as the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibet, and the Falun Gong spiritual group. In a statement, Yahoo!'s associate general counsel said that the content restrictions stated in the pledge "impose no greater obligation than already exists in laws in China." The lawyer also stated that Yahoo! will conform to local laws in countries where it operates. Cat-and-mouse game The growing list of sites that are blocked reflects the speed with which Chinese censors try to block content they consider threatening. Within hours of reports that Google's search results could be accessed through part of Yahoo!'s search engine, that section was blocked. Since Google licenses its search technology to many sites on the Internet, a complete block of Google's technology is almost impossible. Thus, determined Internet users in China can perform Web searches from other sites that use Google's technology, such as looksmart.com. Furthermore, users can try to access any of thousands of proxy servers — intermediaries that handle traffic between a computer and the rest of the Internet. However, proxy servers can be difficult to find, and government censors reportedly search the Internet looking for proxy servers to block. Fortunately for Chinese Net users, bans on Web sites are lifted with enough media attention or external pressure. For example, China lifted bans on the New York Times and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation sites after the two publications raised the issue with Chinese officials. For now, though, Chinese users face the prospect of more seemingly random blockades of Web sites. Copyright (c) 2001 Digital Freedom Network (http://dfn.org). All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced or redistributed for online not-for-profit use without prior written consent as long as DFN is recognized with this credit. For information about DFN's permissions policy, see <http://dfn.org/about/permissions.htm>. ========== HURIDOCS-Tech listserv ========== Send mail intended for the list to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Archives of the list can be found at: http://www.hrea.org/lists/huridocs-tech/markup/maillist.php To subscribe to the list, send a message to <email@example.com>, with the following text in the message: subscribe huridocs-tech To unsubscribe from the list, send a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>, with the following text in the message: unsubscribe huridocs-tech If you have problems (un)subscribing, contact <email@example.com>.
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