Internet giant Google set off a false alarm late Thursday, notifying several media outlets that its search engine and several other online services had been entirely blocked in mainland China. However, within a few hours Google stepped back from the claim, saying that its tracking system for monitoring its services’ availability in China had over-reacted, and that its search, advertising, and mobile services in China were running with few problems.
A few months ago, Google began offering a simple dashboard about the accessibility of its services in mainland China; Google typically updates the information daily and shows accessibility information for the current week. The dashboard often shows consistent blocking of Google services like YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa.
For July 29, the service initially indicated Google’s Web search, images, news, advertising, and mobile services were fully blocked in China. Now a statement on the site reads “It’s possible that our machines can overestimate the level of blockage. That appears to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears that users in China are now accessing our properties normally.”
Google has had a rocky relationship with the Chinese market in 2010. Although the Internet giant recently had its Internet Content Provider license renewed by the Chinese government, Google had previously been redirecting its Chinese search engine to Hong Kong to bypass Chinese content filtering and censorship requirements. That move followed Google’s very public protestations that it and other American companies had been subjected to sophisticated cyberattacks in China, in Google’s case targeting the accounts of Chinese human rights activists.