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Google Caught in China's Internet Blockade

UPDATED: Internet giant Google, which has defended its decision to comply with China's censorship, has discovered that its main search engine has been blocked in most Chinese provinces, a Paris-based media rights group said in a statement.

Due to the blocking, local Internet users are limited to a censored version of Google, Google.cn, which was launched earlier this year, said Reporters Without Borders.

After blocking Google.com on May 31, Internet users in major Chinese cities report experiencing trouble accessing Google's international site, according to a statement by the advocacy group.

"We are aware that users in China are experiencing problems accessing Google.com," a Google spokesperson told internetnews.com. "We are investigating this matter."

Censorship of Google's international sites has spread to other online properties of the Internet company, including Google News and Google Mail, Reporters Without Borders said.

Additionally, the restrictions are reducing the effectiveness of software used by many Chinese Internet users to bypass government firewalls blocking foreign online information.

The crackdown, which has largely neutralized such foreign-produced software as Dynapass, Ultrasurf, Freegate and Garden Networks, began May 24.

"It is deplorable that Chinese Internet users are forced to wage a technological war against censorship in order to access banned content," according to the group.

Around 100,000 people in China use the software, according to the statement.

Bill Xia, creator of Dynapass and a China exile living in the U.S., said in a statement that the government jamming had reached an "unprecedented level" and was likely requiring a high level of computing resources.

Although developers such as Xia are updating the programs in response to China's actions, the advocacy group called their effectiveness extremely limited.

China's controversial influence on Google has resulted in a months-long saga that has seen the search company waffle some.

In February, Google was among other tech heavies in Washington to address concerns it was cooperating with Chinese censors.

Elliott Schrage, vice president of global communications and public affairs at Google, told Congress at the time that figuring out how to deal with China has been a difficult exercise for Google.

"The requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship -- something that runs counter to Google's most basic values and commitments as a company," he continued.

However, according to a transcript of the testimony, Schrage said that Google believed it made a reasonable decision, but that the company understood that it couldn't be sure whether it would prove to be the best one.

"With the announcement of our launch of Google.cn, we've begun a process that we hope will better serve our Chinese users," he said. "We also hope that we will be able to add new services, if circumstances permit. Looking ahead, we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services."

In April, Google CEO Eric Schmidt reiterated that Google made the right decision to comply with local Chinese laws requiring Internet censorship.

However, Google may be set to alter its Chinese landscape.

Company co-founder Sergey Brin admitted to reporters this week that the company compromised its principles when the Internet company agreed to abide by China's censorship demands, according to an Associated Press report.

Brin was in Washington to address net neutrality issues with U.S. senators. Brin said Google felt uncomfortable with China's demands.

The Internet company was doing the absolute minimum censorship to stay online in China, a Google source told internetnews.com at the time.

Google had also rebranded Google.cn to "Gu Ge," or "Valley Song." Google is second to Baidu.com in China, according to iResearch.

China has 111 million online users, second to the U.S.



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