Earlier nearly all Google searches originating from China were blocked by China's Great Firewall. Google initially said the problem wasn't China's fault, but rather a technical problem on the search engine's part. Now they're not so certain. Updated: Wait-a-minute, China!
Initially Google had this to say about the blocked searches, according to the WSJ:
The long and discrete string of text that [Google] affixes to each search request contained a series of letters that caused the Great Firewall to block searches that wouldn't normally be blocked.
The text string contained the letters "rfa," which has been associated with the phrase Radio Free Asia, a service that has been blocked by Chinese censors for some time. Those letters appeared to be showing up in searches world-wide in the constantly changing URL address that are generated by each search.
But now Google sent us a note with a bit of more information on what happened:
Having looked into this issue in more detail, it's clear we actually added this parameter a week ago. So whatever happened today to block Google.com.hk must have been as a result of a change in the great firewall. However, interestingly our search traffic in China is now back to normal—even though we have not made any changes at our end. We will continue to monitor what is going on, but for the time being this issue seems to be resolved.
Geez. Guess it's time to reach for the popcorn again and watch another round of Google vs. The Great Firewall of China.
Update: Additional information from Google added.