Access to Google's free weblog service, Blogger, appears once again to be blocked by official censors in China, less than two months after the service became accessible to users there.
Weblogs, or blogs as they are more commonly known, are personal websites that are similar to online diaries, allowing people to record events in their lives, share pictures, or comment on politics and current events.
The Chinese government has a policy of blocking access to internet sites that it deems undesirable but the specifics of these efforts, which can change over time, are not generally acknowledged by officials in public.
The effectiveness of these controls is also subject to debate. While Chinese internet users do not have ready access to some websites, they are generally well informed and these controls do not seem to be effective in preventing information from reaching them.
In October, Google's Blogger service became accessible to users in Beijing after having apparently been blocked by official censors for more than three years. But that access didn't last for very long. The Blogger service has been inaccessible from Beijing without the use of a proxy server for the past week, suggesting that censors have once again blocked access to the service.
A proxy server is a web server that functions as an intermediary between a user and the internet. By connecting to the internet via a proxy server located outside China, Chinese users can circumvent government internet controls and are usually able to access blocked websites.
"We have heard reports that users in mainland China may have difficulty accessing Blogger.com," a Google spokeswoman said in an email.
Blogger isn't the only blog service to be blocked in China. Six Apart's rival Typepad service cannot currently be accessed from Beijing without the use of a proxy server. Six Apart has provided its customers in China with a list of suggested proxy servers to help them circumvent the controls and access their blogs.
Most Chinese internet users believe access to the internet must be managed or controlled by the government, according to a recent survey conducted by Guo Liang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
In that survey, Guo found that 82.4 percent of Chinese internet users believed that controlling internet content was either "necessary" or "very necessary." By comparison, 3.5 percent of internet users said controlling internet content was not necessary.
But while the survey found widespread support among Chinese internet users for controlling internet content, it found that most users did not think that access to political content should be controlled. The survey found that 12 percent of users felt that access to political content should be controlled.
While access to political content doesn't appear to worry Chinese internet users, most felt that access to internet content such as pornography (85 percent) and violence (69 percent) should be controlled.