Google has accused China of disrupting access to the company's Gmail service in a way designed to look like a technical hitch.
The search giant on Monday said it had been getting complaints from its Chinese users for weeks, ranging from inconsistent access to difficulties sending and receiving emails and chat.
But after checking extensively for technical glitches, Google has concluded that China is behind the interference, using a method “carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail,” the Wall Street Journalreported.
Chinese users have also reportedly had problems accessing VPN services, including 12vpn, which many use to circumvent the layers of government censorship.
While China's ICT ministry is of course staying silent on the matter, analysts are speculating that the government has been seeking to tighten its control over the internet in the wake of calls through social networks for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China of the kind seen in Tunisia, as well as other countries in the middle East.
In the wake of the resulting protests, analysts told WSJ they fear the renewed censorship efforts may be long-lasting, and that China may be using Gmail as a test for much stricter limitations on internet access.
Google and China have sparred over internet censorship in the past, with Google briefly refusing to censor its search results in the country, before reaching a compromise that allowed its operating license to be renewed.
Egypt in January briefly shut off access to most of the internet for its citizens in the midst of its own Jasmine Revolution.