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Google Makes Short-Lived Return to China

March 28, 2016, 9:32 AM UTC
2008 Google Winter Marketing Forum In Xian
XIAN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 20: (CHINA OUT) An etiquette girl is reflected on a big screen at the Google's 2008 Xian winter marketing forum on November 20, 2008 in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China. Google has covered in China most of the commercial value of users, 88 percent of search products and user information in the use of Google. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
China Photos—Getty Images

Google(GOOG) Search, which has been blocked in China for the last six years, was reportedly accessible for a short while on Sunday night.

According to local reports, people in mainland China were able to use Google search for more than an hour. However, the shutters then came down again.

China has a substantial censorship mechanism in place — the so-called Golden Shield or Great Firewall — for blocking access to the many websites that authorities deem inappropriate or unwelcome.

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Google’s various services were added to the firewall’s blocklist over the past seven years. YouTube was first, thanks to videos of Chinese security forces beating Tibetans. Search got blocked in 2010 after Google stopped self-censoring and discovered a hack of its Gmail systems, apparently by authorities targeting dissidents and human rights activists. Gmail itself went down in 2014.

It’s not like China is easing up on foreign media and web services.

According to those local reports, the brief lull in China’s censorship of Google only came as a result of the company introducing new web servers in the region — it took the Great Firewall over an hour to recognize those new servers and block access to them.

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In the meantime, although services such as Gmail remained blocked, some hoped that their newfound access to Google Search spelled a change in policy.

“At that moment, I even believed that Google was unblocked and that free speech had come back to [mainland] China again,” IT engineer Li Yue said, according to the South China Morning Post.

It was recently reported that Google was preparing to launch a censored version of its Android app store in the country, with the blessing of the Chinese authorities.

Meanwhile, Facebook(FB) chief Mark Zuckerberg has also recently been courting the Chinese authorities, leading some young people in the country to criticize him for a lack of integrity.