Google searches trigger error messages in China

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The Independent Tech

Google said Tuesday that many searches at its Chinese-language site failed to return results due to a glitch that misled China censors into thinking queries were for Radio Free Asia.

"Lots of users in China have been unable to search on Google.com.hk today," a Google spokesman in California said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

"This blockage seems to have been triggered by a change on Google's part."

The day before the problem started Google upgraded search code parameters worldwide to include a "gs_rfai" string of characters as part of a modification intended to improve query results, according to the company.

"Because this parameter contained the letters 'rfa' the great firewall was associating these searches with Radio Free Asia, a service that has been inaccessible in China for a long time - hence the blockage," the spokesman said.

"We are currently looking at how to resolve this issue."

China's notoriously sophisticated Internet censorship is referred to as "The Great Firewall."

Google also said it has yet to pinpoint the cause for its mobile Internet service being partially blocked in China.

The US Internet giant reported on Monday that its mobile Internet service in China was partially blocked but it was unknown whether the trouble was related to its stand-off with Beijing over censorship.

Google mobile includes search, map, news and other services for smartphones and other Internet-enabled handsets.

Sensitivity to problems with Google offerings in China have heightened since the company last week said it would no longer bow to government censors in Beijing by filtering its search results and effectively shut down its Chinese search engine, re-routing mainland users to its uncensored site in Hong Kong.

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