According to Google’s own Transparency Report, a service which shows statistics based on Google’s real-time traffic, there was a dramatic decline in data exchange between Gmail and China on Friday Dec. 26. Before noon, Gmail’s Internet traffic was completely blocked. Users reported services were still unavailable on Monday Dec. 29.
A member of GreatFire.org, a Chinese organization encouraging freedom of speech considers that this event could be blamed on the government trying to “further eliminate Google’s presence in China” and even interfere in its overseas market. The member explained further that if Gmail users find themselves unable to communicate with people living in China, they might consider changing to a different e-mail service.
DYN, a company that tracks Internet performance worldwide, announced via Twitter that the Internet Protocol (IP) address that allowed Chinese users access to Gmail had been closed down.
A Singapore-based spokesman for Google reported that the company had done various tests but found no disruptions from their end. From now on, the only way to access Google’s emailing services is by virtual private network or VPN which enables devices to access blocked sites and services.
This event is not without precedent in China. Since June this year, many of Google’s services, including Google Drive and Hangouts were interrupted. June also marked the 25th anniversary since Chinese government stopped the pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Up until Friday, Gmail users could still access emails by downloading via protocols such as IMAP, SMTP and POP3. This was a good enough alternative, allowing people to use Gmail on applications such as Microsoft Outlook and iPhone’s Mail.
China closely monitors Internet activity in the country, quickly reacting to any disturbances that might harm the Communist Party. The country owns one off the most complex internet censorship systems in the world, known as the Great Firewall of China.
Some critics believe recent events were caused due to China’s attempt to isolate the country from the rest of the world.
Blocking Google will interfere with the activity of various companies based in China, which use Gmail as their “corporate email system”. Zach Smith, a Beijing-based digital products manager confirmed that company operations are starting to slow down and that it was becoming more and more difficult to get things done.
When requested explanations Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated she had no knowledge regarding Google services being blocked adding that the government’s role is to provide an appropriate business environment for all investors.
Image Source: Al Arabiya News