Being a search engine – a tool for the free flow of information – in a country that doesn’t always want information to flow freely can be a dicey prospect. Google (News - Alert) saw disruptions in its Web-search and e-mail services in China this weekend, and industry watchers say it underscores the uncertainty surrounding Beijing's effort to control the flow of information into the country, as well as the risks that effort poses to the government's efforts to draw global businesses.
Chinese Google users began reported a lack of access late on Friday. The blockages interfered with their use of everything from Google's search engine to its Gmail e-mail service to its Google Play mobile-applications store. Google said that its own statistics showed a sharp decline in traffic from China, and it said that the problem didn't appear to be within its equipment, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today, implying that it may be something happening at the Chinese end of the processes.
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China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the agency that oversees China's Internet industry, did not respond to list of questions the Wall Street Journal sent to it on Sunday, so the cause of the blockages and slowdowns remain mysterious.
Google services in China were said to be restored by Sunday, though there were reports that some processes were running slow.
Some industry analysts believe that China's Internet censorship efforts have been boosted in advance of the nation’s 18th Party Congress, a meeting of China’s Communist Party leaders taking place in Beijing last week and this weekend.
Edited by Brooke Neuman