Was Google+ Blocked in China? Maybe Not. Is Google+ Blocked in China? Maybe.

Google+ is only a couple of days old, but its accessibility is already a hot media topic. After the beta release on June 29th, news began circulating around Twitter that the site was already blocked. Ren Media, a Chinese marketing firm, was the first to report on the outage, citing local reports and a monitoring service (Just Ping.com). Tech Crunch picked up the story from them, with added citations from GreatFirewallofChina.org. The next day, articles about China’s swift reaction to Google+’s launch popped up on more mainstream sources, including the International Business Times (IBT) and the New York Daily News.

Some articles covered Google+ as if its censorship was already certain, citing anonymous Twitter reports and mainland China monitoring services. The IBT used the opportunity to reflect upon previous Internet censorship in China.  However, by June 30th, Steven Millward at Penn Olson wrote an article stating that Google+ was accessible, but very slow for him in mainland China.  Shanghaiist also reported that Google+ was slow, and that Just Ping and Great Firewall of China were giving mixed results.

So was Google+ blocked? Reports have been mixed, but it looks like the initial glut of articles may have incorrectly attributed what were merely slow loading times and intermittent outages (common to many international websites in China) to blocking. Also, Chinese ping sites like Just Ping and GreatFirewall can incorrectly report sites as inaccessible due to technical problems. It’s possible, though unconfirmed, that the incredibly slow loading times are due to throttling, a method that the Chinese government may use to discourage users from relying on international websites. So maybe Google+ wasn’t blocked on launch – but it’s hard to draw any conclusions.

So far, Herdict has only a couple of reports on Google+ from China – one marking it as accessible on June 30th, and one inaccessible on July 3rd. Local bloggers that could previously access Google+ are now reporting that local DNS servers do not resolve it. So it’s possible that the answer to “was Google+ blocked?” is “wasn’t last week, but it is now.” As always, we encourage our readers to report, so we can determine accessibility.

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About the Author: Kendra Albert

Kendra Albert is a intern at the Berkman Center, concentrating on the freedom of expression projects like Herdict and the Open Net Initiative. She also researches cyber-security and cyberlaw issues.

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