Google Q&A for Chinese Users Blocked in China

Last month, Google took the wraps off a new beta “Q&A” service for Chinese users, where users could post a question and receive links to Web pages with potential answers in response. The service is hosted by Google’s Hong Kong operation, but now finds itself in an awkward position: it has apparently been blocked by the Chinese government, making it inaccessible in mainland China.

The Chinese government recently renewed Google’s license to operate in China, after Google stopped redirecting search traffic to Hong Kong and instead put a link to its Hong Kong operation on the Chinese version of its search service. However, Google’s relationship with China remains strained following cyberattacks at the beginning of the year, and the latest service blocking will likely only add to Google’s—and its Chinese users’—frustration.

Some current questions features on Google’s Q&A service focus on formation of political parties and democratic establishments in China, as well as techniques for circumventing the Chinese government’s extensive firewalling and content censorship operations. According to reports, previous topics have included questions about the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising and a protest in Guangzhou over preserving Cantonese. Topics like these may well have run afoul of China’s content filtering regime.

Google Q&A joins several other Google services blocked or partially blocked in China, including YouTube, PIcassa, Blogger, and Sites, along with several other partially blocked services like Google Docs, Mobile, and Groups.

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