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Technical glitch blocks Google search engine in mainland China

March 30, 2010 | 11:17 am

A technical glitch blocked Web searches in China on Tuesday, Google Inc. said in a statement.

Google blamed the glitch on a string of text “gs_rfai” that began appearing in Web addresses in the last 24 hours.

China Because of the characters “rfa,” Chinese filtering systems – known as the “great firewall” -- associated the searches with Radio Free Asia, which is inaccessible in China, the Internet search giant said.

"We are currently looking at how to resolve this issue," a spokesman said.Google did not say how the string of text was created. Chinese Internet users speculated Tuesday that the addition was triggering the error messages.

The glitch caused a stir in mainland China, where Google had shuttered its search engine and begun  redirecting users to an uncensored version in Hong Kong. China’s filtering system has blocked users from seeing sensitive results on the Hong Kong search engine.

Across China, all searches on Google’s main search engine appeared to have been blocked starting Tuesday afternoon.

Searches for seemingly innocuous terms such as “Beijing” and “China” returned error messages. Twitter users across the country reported outages of the search engine starting at around 5 p.m.

Google’s public stand against censorship and in defiance of Beijing regulators has elicited strong rebukes from Beijing since the company first threatened to close its search engine in China two months ago.

On Sunday, the American Internet giant reported that some of its mobile features were partially blocked.

-- Jessica Guynn and David Pierson

Photo: Security officers try to stop people from lighting candles outside Google's Chinese headquarters in Beijing. Credit: Andy Wong / Associated Press