A recent tweet from the “Great Firewall,” the Chinese organization that monitors blocked websites in China, shows that all Google services are blocked in China. The speculation is that blocking access and services seems to have been escalated as the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approaches.
It was on June 4, 1989 that members of the People’s Liberation Army converged on the fourth biggest city square in the world, in the middle of Beijing, to confront a group of pro-democracy protesters. Reports from several witnesses claim that troops that numbered in the thousands stormed the square, in efforts to reclaim it from peaceful protesters. The event was the culmination of events that began in April of the same year, but the aftermath was anything but peaceful. In the wake of the event, the troops that fired sub-machine guns on the protesters left behind a trail of destruction, with a death toll estimated between 500 and 2500 citizens.
The iconic photograph of a lone protester, who later became known as “the Tank Man” obstructing the path of a column of tanks as they tried to progress, is now symbolic of the events that happened on the day, which the Chinese wish the rest of the world would forget.
Censorship is not new to China, and representatives of the Great Fire organization state that problems began to appear last week. Although there has been no statement from the Chinese authorities, the transparency report issued by Google, confirms that access to all Google services is being denied throughout China.
The spokesperson, in a recent interview, with the New York Times says that this is by far the biggest attack against Google that the organization has seen. Not only has access to searches been denied, but also access to images, Gmail, translation tools and maps are not available. Coincidentally, or deliberately, it also appears that access to both the Chinese and English versions of the Wall Street Journal is not currently available on the mainland.
Jeremy Goldkorn, director of Danwei, one of the companies that tracks use of media and Internet space in China sees an escalation of the tension between Google and the Chinese leaders, who demanded Google to censor responses from search queries. Google responded by shutting down the search engine on the mainland and threatened to leave the country.
Amid the revelations of the NSA spying activities made by Edward Snowden in March of 2014, there have been calls for improved privacy and protection of user information. Google has responded by instituting automatic encryption process for all search results, and this may have increased the ire of the Chinese, as it now limits the ability to censor.
The disruptions are now almost expected on the anniversary of June 4, and Jason Ng, of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, explains that since they are not able to selectively censor information, officials resort to shutting the flow completely. Ng, the author of Blocked on Weibo, which is about the Chinese version of Twitter, recalls events of the 20th anniversary, of June 4, when access to Hotmail, Twitter and blogging platforms were are denied in what was labeled as “Internet maintenance day.”
It is not known if the situation is temporary, but despite the efforts by the Chinese authorities to block Google and search engines on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, there are still some push-back watchdog groups and other organizations such as the “Great Firewall” that continue to thrive.
By Dale Davidson