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YouTube Says China Blocks Site


Source : http://online.wsj.com

By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO and GEOFFREY A. FOWLER

Access to GoogleInc.'s YouTube service was blocked by Chinese authorities, as the video-sharing site continues to wrestle with governments offended by some of its content.

A YouTube spokesman said as of Tuesday evening it hadn't been contacted by the Chinese government and was working to restore the service, which had been disrupted for more than 24 hours.

The site has been temporarily censored in at least a dozen countries, according to YouTube, including Turkey, where a ban remains in effect. Such incidents are buffeting YouTube's attempts to expand into new markets, particularly China, home to the world's largest number of Internet users—nearly 300 million, according to the government.

YouTube faces stiff competition in China from domestic video-sharing sites such as Tudou.com, which are less likely to get blocked in their entirety because they restrict political or racy content that might draw fire from the government.

The Chinese government didn't directly address whether it had blocked YouTube. When asked about the ban during a news conference Tuesday, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said that the "Chinese government has taken up management of the network according to the laws," according to a transcript of the event.

The Chinese government frequently blocks foreign Web sites that it deems to have objectionable content. Access to YouTube was blocked last year during high-profile government meetings and following unrest in Tibet.

The latest YouTube ban coincides with the March 20 release by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile of a video allegedly showing Chinese forces beating Tibetans during protests that occurred in March 2008.

The video was also posted on Blip.tv, a U.S. video-sharing site that was also blocked Tuesday in China. The site urged the Chinese government to "embrace the openness of the Internet."

YouTube, which is run on servers outside of China, is under less direct control by the Chinese government, but likely to have the entire site banned when it features content that the government doesn't like.

Xiao Qiang, the founder of China Digital Times, a news Web site run out of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, said the latest YouTube ban fits what appears to be a broader effort by the Chinese government since December to tighten control of the Internet.

"Part of the strategy is to block the foreign sites, and then push users to the domestic sites, which are easier to control," said Mr. Xiao.

Differing Internet censorship standards across the world can cause headaches for Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo Inc. who are trying to develop their business in countries that block or control information on the Internet.

In China, Google offers a local version of its search engine which leaves out sites that contain information that the government finds objectionable. In Thailand, YouTube blocks access to videos that might be seen to insult the king, which is against the law in that country. Last year, authorities in Pakistan blocked YouTube, saying it was hosting videos offensive to Islam.

The Turkish government has been blocking YouTube since March of last year. YouTube has worked with officials in Germany and Thailand to remove videos that violate local laws.

Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at and Geoffrey A. Fowler at

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