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More Google features blocked in China

The disruption casts new suspicion on the government. Links to Hong Kong are still open.

March 30, 2010|By David Sarno

Google Inc. on Monday confirmed that some of its mobile features in China had been partially blocked, raising the specter that its position in that country was deteriorating even further.

The company was not specific about the nature of the block, saying the availability of its online services fluctuates regularly and that it was too early to confirm if the block would be permanent, or even if it was related to the feud with China.

Google users in China might be experiencing a service disruption for features the company provides to users of Google-powered phones, according to a status Web page Google has been updating daily since last week. Those services include the mobile version of its search, e-mail, mapping and social networking services.

Google posted the page as part of its decision to close its search engine in China and route users to an uncensored version in Hong Kong.

The company has pointed out that the Chinese government could at any time opt to turn off Google's services on mainland China by cutting links to the Hong Kong site. Until now, there has been no public indication that any of Google's services have been disrupted there.

Of the 12 services listed on the status page, which includes "Web" and "News," the "Mobile" category is the only one that has changed since Google posted the status page March 22. Some of those services, such as YouTube's and Google's blogging sites, have been blocked for months and remain so.

Reports from China have indicated that the Chinese government is probably blocking a range of search terms on topics it considers objectionable -- for instance, "Falun Gong," the outlawed spiritual group, or "Tiananmen Square." Google has said those instances of censorship would not be reflected on its status page, which is intended to reflect the broad availability of its services in China.

Because of the huge number of mobile phone users in China, analysts have said that Google would probably want to continue competing in the country's portable phone market, even if it were forced to halt its search operation.

Adding to the Google drama last week was an announcement by China Unicom, one of the country's largest telecommunications providers, that it would no longer allow Google's search engine to work on its Android phones.

david.sarno@latimes.com

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