Google+, the new Google social network, may already be banned or slowed in China. This continues a long trend of censorship of both Google and social properties.
The Fate of Google+ in China
When Google+ was initially released, ping tests on the site indicated that it wasn’t accessible at all from within China. That would indicate that, as with so many other American social sites, Google was being thrust behind the Great Firewall. But the array of initial reporting on the immediate ban on Google+ may have just been jumping to conclusions.
According to the Daily News, Google+ might be “throttled” (slowed down) or not halted at all. “Shanghaiist blogger reported they were abled to load plus.google.com, albeit slowly,” reported Anjali Mullany, and Tom Chen of the Daily News “later reported he was able to load the page quickly.”
It’s possible that Google+ has been banned selectively, that access has been limited by the Chinese government, or that Google simply didn’t make the new site available from servers that provide easy access to Chinese users. It may be that China hasn’t bothered banning the service thus far, which – when you consider the small-scale field testing that the service now provides – wouldn’t be altogether surprising.
But not banning the service yet doesn’t mean not banning it at all. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, and LinkedIn are all inaccessible from China, not to mention the war of words between Google and China over Gmail.
“China is concerned about any social movement that it doesn’t control,” said Rana Mitter, a professor at the Oxford’s Institute for Chinese Studies.
It’s unlikely that Google would be the exception to that rule, especially considering the amount of enmity between Google and the Chinese government. That said, Google Buzz never made the banned list – likely due to its small size and low success.
There’s also one final question to answer: How much does it even matter if Google+ is blocked in China? The behaviors of the Chinese market when it comes to social, as we previously discussed, are vastly different than behaviors of western users.
People in China tend toward web portals over social sites, and the social sites that are present are adapated to the trends of Chinese users; even if completely banned, Google probably won’t be losing a massive number of users.