Google Blames China For Disrupted Gmail Service

The Chinese government is behind the disrupted Gmail service in mainland China, claims Google

Search engine giant Google has blamed the Chinese government’s increased online interference for disrupting its China-based Gmail service in the wake of an Internet campaign for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’.

Internet users in mainland China have increasingly been complaining about Gmail’s service disruptions over the past month, including difficulties in sending, searching and loading emails.

“The service has been really bad recently,” a Gmail user in China told eWEEK Europe UK, “I’ve been trying over and over again just to log into my account.”

According to a Google spokesperson, the service disruption has nothing to do with the company’s technical support but the Chinese government’s blockage “carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail”.

Jasmine Revolution

The disruption of Gmail’s service in China has been linked to a recent Internet campaign that has been trying to provoke a mass demonstration against the Communist government.

Inspired by the protests in the Middle East, the movement is calling for a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ – a reference to the Tunisian revolt earlier this year.

According to Google, the disrupted email service is caused by the Chinese government’s attempt to hack into activists’ accounts – echoing similar concerns last year. Only those using the Internet Explorer browser are affected, according to Google.

“We’ve noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users,” wrote Google Security Team on its blog. “We believe activists may have been a specific target. We’ve also seen attacks against users of another popular social site.”

The search engine giant has recommended users and corporations to consider deploying Microsoft’s temporary Fixit to block the attack, until an official patch becomes available.

“We’re working with Microsoft to develop a comprehensive solution for this issue,” said Google Security Team.

Accessing Gmail via VPN

Despite the alleged state interference, some Gmail customers have managed to access their accounts via virtual private network (VPN) services, which allow subscribers to anonymously surf blocked websites by employing private proxy servers that encrypt data.

However, the government is reportedly expanding its blockage of VPN connection. According to Witopia, a provider of VPN technology widely used among foreigners in mainland China, there is a surge in customer complaints about technical difficulties when accessing websites.

“Although many are unaffected by increased blocking attempts of VPNs and proxies in mainland China, support volume increased dramatically,” said a Witopia spokesperson on the Financial Times.

In January 2011, Beijing claimed that it had deleted 350 million websites in a campaign to wipe off ‘harmful information’ from its online community. The deleted contents included text, pictures and videos, among which 60,000 were adult websites.

“There was a notable improvement in the online cultural environment,” said Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office.