China appeared to start blocking access to Gmail in the country on Friday, a move seen as an effort to curb Google’s influence there. China’s web access is tightly controlled by state censors who have taken aim at Google in the past. Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube are all already blocked in the country.
“Data on Google’s website showed Gmail traffic in China dropped sharply beginning on Friday,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Google spokesman Taj Meadows said Monday that ‘there’s nothing wrong on our end.’” Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests earlier this year, China blocked access to Gmail in the country, but users were still able to access their accounts through third-party apps, such as Microsoft Outlook. Now even that access has been blocked.
“The new step in blocking Gmail has consequences that go well beyond making it difficult for users to access personal emails. Some foreign companies use Gmail as their corporate email service, for example,” according to the New York Times. “Google has for years been a target of the Chinese government, and some official publications have cited the company as one component of a Western conspiracy to undermine China.”
“Chinese authorities, who strictly control online content, sometimes block or unblock Internet sites and services without stating a reason,” according to the Journal. “It wasn’t clear whether Gmail access would return.”