September 9, 2002
China began blocking access to the Google Web site at the beginning of September, but now appears to have added an unusual twist: typing in Google's Web address no longer brings up a message saying the site can't be found, but rather one of several Chinese-language search engines.
"A blank page makes it clear to whoever's viewing it that something's being controlled, that something's wrong. This way, people can be led to believe there's nothing wrong," said Nathan Midler, an Internet analyst with International Data Corp. in Beijing.
Google Inc., the California-based company that operates the Web site, couldn't be immediately reached for comment, but last week said it is working with Chinese authorities to restore access for its users in China.
Those talks apparently haven't borne much fruit.
"I don't see a lot of ground for negotiating a deal," said Midler, noting that China would likely demand that Google remove mention of certain Web sites as a condition of restoring access. "On the Chinese side, it doesn't hurt them at all to simply block Google."
China continuously monitors domestic Web sites for content it deems subversive, and also blocks Internet access to foreign Web sites containing such content, such as Western news organizations and political pressure groups.
Google is believed to be the first Internet search engine China has blocked. The move may be related to the tightening of control over the media in the run-up to a major Communist Party congress in November.
Dow Jones Newswires' attempts to reach the Google site through its Chinese Internet service provider on Monday were redirected to Goyoyo, a previously obscure Chinese-language search engine. Other Internet users in Beijing reported being redirected to a search engine called Baidu and another one run by Peking University.
A network administrator at Goyoyo in Beijing, reached by phone, said China's directory of Internet addresses had been changed to link the address "www.google.com" to the Goyoyo site. He said the change was probably made by China's security authorities, and that he had only noticed it on Monday morning.
The difference in the content accessible from the two sites is obvious. A search for the banned Falun Gong spiritual [practice] on Google brings up the group's Internet home page; a similar search on Goyoyo results mostly in articles from China's state-run media denouncing the [practice].
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