Google services blocked in China for 12 hours

All of Google's services were down in China for a 12-hour period yesterday. So what was going on?

Joe Svetlik Reporter
Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.
Joe Svetlik
2 min read

Google suffered a massive drop-off in traffic to its websites in China yesterday, sparking fears it was blocked by the government, Bloomberg reports.

After all, the Chinese Communist Party Congress took place on the same day.

Have a gander at Google's Transparency report if you want to see just how much traffic dropped off a cliff. Services affected included Gmail, Google Maps and Google Drive.

The Communist Party Congress aimed to appoint a new generation of leaders. According to Greatfire.org, a site that monitors Internet access in China, "The fact that Google is blocked now is surely no coincidence." It's likely the government wanted to cut off as many dissident voices as possible, and that inevitably includes the Internet.

Google said in a statement there was "nothing wrong our end".

The search giant was blocked using a method known as DNS poisoning. This means if you tried to access any of Google's sites in China, you'd be sent to an IP address in Korea instead, which doesn't host a website at the moment.

But as of this morning, the sites have been unblocked, which just makes it even more likely to have been a state-sanctioned ban during the party congress.

"Even though the blocking of Google Search may only have lasted for 12 hours or so, it was likely the single one decision by the Great Firewall authorities affecting the most users ever," Greatfire.org said.

So was it just to quell opposition during the Communist Party Congress? There are some other theories around, including that it was a mistake, that the government wanted to test public opinion, and that it was a dry run to see if it could block all of Google.

Whichever way you look at it, it's pretty frightening to think a government can shut down a fair proportion of the Internet, just like that.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.