Why Google+ Has Already Disappeared in China

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It’s not even out of its infancy, but Google+ has already been blocked in China. It seems just like only yesterday the product was announced; and my Circles aren’t even full yet.

While it’s been rumored that Google won’t officially make the upstart social network open to the public until the beginning of August, users in China already report that the service has been censored. It also seems unlikely they’ll reverse the change anytime soon.

(MORE: A Brief History of Chinese Internet Censorship)

While it’s not a surprising move, given China’s relationship with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – virtually nonexistent since they are all filtered out by the Great Firewall of China – Google+ hasn’t even been readied for primetime yet given its “beta” status.

(MORE: China Blocks LinkedIn)

When Google unveiled Google+ late last month, it was reported by English-language Chinese blog Shanghaiist that despite false reports it was already blocked, Google+ was still available to China’s netizens. In fact, it turned out that the government was giving it the same treatment they were giving Gmail earlier this year: making it slow, and incredibly difficult to use.

It wasn’t until just shortly afterwards that the government quickly changed their minds and their methods. A week after Google unveiled its first real, promising social network, the government shuttered any possible doors, sending a message loud and clear to Google while preventing any political dissonance at home.

(PHOTOS: China Stamps Out Democracy Protests)

Officials have become increasingly wary since the Middle East uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries earlier this year. Technology, and in particular, social media, has been cited as a prime instigator of the revolutions. To prevent a stir, China was quick to censor all news of the Egyptian revolution and to stamp out all hints of a possible “Jasmine Revolution” within its own borders.

(MORE: Google Blames China for Slowing Down Gmail)

China’s relationship with Google, which we wouldn’t characterize as “good” by any means, has been tempestuous since they tried to enter the Chinese market in 2006. Last year, Google exited mainland China after censorship disputes, choosing to move its operations to nearby Hong Kong. The discord between the two worsened when Google accused China of slowing down Gmail access to users. YouTube, one of Google’s other products, is also blocked in China.

MORE: China Denies Gmail Hack, Claims It’s a ‘Victim’ Too

Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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