False alarm: What's behind the Google search block report?

Updated: 2010-07-31 09:43
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Google triggered a false alarm Thursday by posting a notice that its search engine and several other services had been cut off in China - a key market where the company has gained a second place in market share.

But what initially looked like a dramatic development turned out to be nothing more than a technological hiccup.

After the company's report of a complete blockage in China had been relayed by many foreign media, Google backed off the claim only several hours later.

The company, based in Mountain View, said its system for tracking Internet access appeared to have misinterpreted what was happening to its search, mobile and advertising services in China.

"It's possible that our machines could overestimate the level of blockage," Google said in a statement. "That seems to be what happened (Thursday) when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears now that users in China are accessing our properties normally."

This suggests several things and raises some questions.

First, Google needs to find some reason for an ordinary technical error it might be reluctant to admit. Though it wasn't clear as it investigated the reasons some services were not accessable, Google immediately blamed censorship to feed speculation. Western media would welcome another piece of evidence for attacking the Chinese government and its trade and investment policies.

And for many, technology problems would be ruled out as one encounters difficulty in getting Internet services provided by global technology leader Google.

Second, everything that relates to the Internet giant would stir up waves of debates on China's Internet policy and rigid market restrictions, if any. A market has its own rules set by its regulators and everyone who joins in should obey them.

Even with the fact that Google is a leading player in the Internet market with technologies it has full confidence in, it still wants to gain favorable public opinion both in China and abroad by instigating doubts on and critics of China's policy. All this serves its purpose of obtaining business profits at no expense in China and at the sametime pressurs China and misleads media.

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The company is running the risk of being cut off from the world's most populous country because it is no longer willing to abide by laws and regulations in China to delete search contents that are illegal in China, such as pornography.

Google had cooperated with the government's regulations for four years, but said it had a change of heart after a so-called hacking that it said was tracked to China. But it was not willing to leave China and instead redirected visitors to Hong Kong. It got approval in July to renew its operation license for another year in China, and vowed to abide by Chinese laws and regulations.

After so many media sensations created by Google, people may finally be enlighted about its intentions by disseminating so-called moral values online.