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Google site fools interwebs into China blockage scare

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Google's China search is working just fine, despite breathless claims from countless news organizations that it's "fully blocked."

On Thursday afternoon, everyone from The New York Times to Cnet reported that Google's search engine, online ad service, and mobile apps – as well as various other services – had been snuffed in China. But it turns out they misinterpreted their source.

Their source was Google – or, rather, a Google website. Google maintains a "dashboard" that tracks the availability of its China services, and on Thursday, it said that Google search, ads, and mobile apps had been "fully blocked" in the country. But Google tells us that its dashboard can't always be trusted.

"Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines could overestimate the level of blockage," a company spokeswoman tells us. "That seems to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears now that users in China are accessing our properties normally.

"Please also note that the dashboard is not a real-time tool."

Google also points out there's a disclaimer at the top of the dashboard. "The status is assessed by geographically diverse servers that are used to monitor connection capability," it says. "Note that service status in China has a fluctuating nature. This assessment may not reflect small-scale blocking that frequently occurs or individual experiences with issues such as keyword blocking that may affect access to services temporarily."

"This dashboard receives updates at least once a day, generally in the evening Pacific Time."

China renewed Google’s license in July, after Google made a small change to its China site, Google.cn. Previously, the company automatically redirected users to uncensored results on its Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk. But it has now added a landing page on Google.cn that links to the Hong Kong site.

And it would seem this is still enough to appease the Chinese government. Whatever the interwebs say. ®

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