Many centuries ago, the Chinese rulers built the Great Wall of China to keep invaders off its boundaries. The rulers today use the Great Firewall of China to impose censorship on internet and to block unwanted sites. After months of disruption to the biggest email network in the world, the country has blocked Google’s Gmail, affecting nearly 1.3 billion accounts. Well, that is what the new data seems to suggest for now.
China is notorious for maintaining tight control over the internet within its borders. Any signs of dissent or challenges to the ruling party’s leadership are dealt with an iron hand and crushed thoroughly. They have the most sophisticated internet censorship mechanism in the world called the Great Firewall of China.
China had started disrupting foreign online services like Google in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the government crackdown on pro-democracy supporters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Critics of the communist led government and its stringent internet monitoring mechanism allege they have been trying to “create an internet cut off from the rest of the world.”
Large numbers of Gmail web addresses were cut off in China on Friday, said GreatFire.org, a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group. Users said the service was still down on Monday.
“I think the government is just trying to further eliminate Google’s presence in China and even weaken its market overseas,” said a member of GreatFire.org, who uses a pseudonym.
“Imagine if Gmail users might not get through to Chinese clients. Many people outside China might be forced to switch away from Gmail.”
Google’s own Transparency Report, which shows real-time traffic to Google services, displayed a sharp drop-off in traffic to Gmail from China on Friday.
“We’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” a Singapore-based spokesman for Google said in an email.
Inspite of a disruption in Google services in the country since June, Gmail users could access emails downloaded via protocols like IMAP, SMTP and POP3. These had let people communicate using Gmail on apps like the Apple iPhone’s Mail and Microsoft Outlook.
Many sources, including a large number of Chinese citizens on social sites, have confirmed the block. Tech experts who tried signing in to Gmail using different mail apps confirmed that it was totally inaccessible in mainland China. However, since the block has come on an IP level, it can still be accessed via a proxy or VPN.