Why are Naver blogs and online cafes blocked in China?

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Internet users in China have not been able to access Naver’s blogs and online cafes over the past week, raising speculation that the Chinese government may have intentionally blocked access as it had done previously to foreign online services. Access to Naver’s blogs has been blocked in China since Oct. 16. Its online cafes were also inaccessible that day and then became available temporarily on Oct. 17. But the access has been blocked again since Oct. 18.  Users can access Naver’s search and mail services, meaning that the blocking affects community-related services only.

Naver, the nation’s largest portal operator, said Sunday it has been unable to determine the cause of the problem. “We cannot figure out why access to some of our services has been blocked,” a Naver official said. “There was no server problem.” The official added it is unknown whether Naver was the only company whose services were blocked over the past week.

Industry watchers are raising the speculation that the latest blocking might have been part of the Great Firewall of China, referring to the country’s system of legislative actions and technologies to regulate and censor the internet domestically. It has been common knowledge that Chinese authorities, through the project, keep tight control over internet access to foreign online services. Most services of Google and all of Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in China. Anti-censorship activists claim the obstructions are to block information flow.

In 2014, access to Korea’s two popular mobile messaging applications, KakaoTalk and Line, was blocked in China.  At the time, Japan-based messenger Line, operated by Naver, gained sensational popularity in China thanks to its product placement advertising in “My Love from the Star,” a Korean romantic fantasy TV series that became a smash hit in China. KakaoTalk was also widely used by Chinese users to talk to their Korean friends.

After a month-long blockade at the time, the Chinese government reportedly told its Korean counterpart that it blocked the KakaoTalk and Line services as terrorist groups utilized them as a means to distribute information. Access to the two messengers has been still blocked since then, and mobile messenger Wechat of Tencent is currently used in China instead. An industry source said it is difficult for companies to figure out why access to their services is blocked in China. “We do not know if it is a matter of infrastructure in China or a matter of politics,” the source said. “Only the government would be able to figure out the cause of the problem.”

By Jun Ji-hye

(Korea Timnes)

 

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