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Google, AltaVista Blocked In China

Google, AltaVista Blocked In China

by , 9:00 AM EDT, September 9th, 2002

In August, we reported that Chinese ISP's and content providers were voluntarily pledging to self-censor their Web content so that it was free from "subversive" material. Earlier this month, Chinese Web surfers found that the popular search engine Google had been blocked by the Chinese government. Last Friday, CNN reported that AltaVista has also been added to the blacklist.

Since August's self-regulation pledge, Google had become one of the few search engines that provided Chinese Web surfers with uncensored information in their own language. The actions raise some conjecture about the Chinese government's motives, with some analysts suggesting that the move is part of the current administration's 'shaping up' for the upcoming Communist Party congress. Others, however, see it as a little more sinister:

The report [from 'officials in the know'] also pointed out that blocking search engines based outside China is the only way to deal with companies not beholden to China's self-censorship rules.

Internet analysts agree that there is an aspect of commercial retribution to the move.

"The challenge for companies such as Google is that they have no entity in China. There's absolutely no leverage that the government has over them except to block them," said Duncan Clark of bda China Limited, an Internet and telecommunications consultancy with offices in Beijing.

While Google and Altavista are blocked, Yahoo! remains accessible. Oddly enough Yahoo!, as well as being a signatory to August's self-regulation pledge, uses Google for its searches.

You can read more about the AltaVista blocking story at CNN.com.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We shouldn't even need to go into the freedom of expression issues involved in here other than to say that it is particularly disturbing, but not surprising, that the Chinese government seeks to 'protect' Chinese citizens from material it finds to be politically troubling. However, if the above quote from the analysts are correct, the hypocrisy in this story is in China's enthusiasm about using the Internet as a tool for commerce. It is not possible to take the 'good' - as China's administration sees it - without the 'bad.' The market will not grow without a more balanced approach to freedom of expression. China will shoot itself in the foot if it's not careful.

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