Dec 29, 2014 (TSR-USATODAY) – Google Inc.’s e-mail service, Gmail, was blocked in China in what may be a government attempt to limit or even ban access to the firm’s services.
Data from Google’s Transparency Report show that online traffic from China to Gmail fell sharply on Friday and dropped to nearly zero on Saturday. There was a tiny rise on Monday.
Earl Zmijewski, vice president of data analytics at U.S.-based Internet analysis firm Dyn Research, said his tests showed that China’s government had blocked Google IP addresses in Hong Kong used by people on the mainland to access Gmail services.
Taj Meadows, a spokesman for Google Asia Pacific, said Google has checked its e-mail service and “there’s nothing technically wrong on our end.”
At a daily press briefing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of an e-mail disruption. She said China “always welcomes and supports foreign investors’ legal business operations in China, and we will continue to provide an open, transparent and fair environment for foreign enterprises operating in China.”?
Calls to the government regulator, the China Internet Information Office, were unanswered Monday.
Zach Smith, a Beijing-based digital products manager at City Weekend magazine, told Reuters: “It’s becoming harder and harder to connect and do work in China when services like Gmail are being blocked. Using a VPN seems to be the only answer to doing anything these days online in China.”
Google closed its mainland China search engine in 2009, saying it would no longer cooperate with the country’s censors. That followed hacking attacks traced to China aimed at stealing the company’s operating code and breaking into e-mail accounts.
Since then, access to Google services has been periodically limited or blocked, possibly in an effort to pressure Chinese users into abandoning Google products and shifting to services from domestic companies willing to cooperate with the government. Google services are popular among Chinese who seek to avoid government monitoring.
Web access in China to Gmail has been blocked since June, according to Greatfire.org, a China-based advocacy group for Internet freedom. Until last week, Gmail users could access e-mails downloaded through protocols including SMTP and POP3, which let people use Gmail on apps such as the Apple iPhone’s mail app and Microsoft Outlook, Reuters reported.
Contributing: Sunny Yang in Beijing, Associated Press