Many users were redirected to the webpage of a company that sells anti-censorship web services tailored for Chinese users.
BEIJING/SHANGHAI - Human error likely caused a glitch in China's Great Firewall that saw millions of Internet users ironically rerouted to the homepage of a US-based company which helps people evade Beijing's web censorship, sources told Reuters.
Hundreds of millions of people attempting to visit China's most popular websites on Tuesday afternoon found themselves redirected to Dynamic Internet Technology (DIT), a company that sells anti-censorship web services tailored for Chinese users.
The official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday quoted experts as saying that the malfunction could have been the result of a hacking attack, and domestic media was full of speculation along those lines.
DIT is tied to the Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in China which has been blamed for past hacking attacks.
During a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said he had "noted" reports of Falun Gong involvement, but said he did not know who was responsible.
"I don't know who did this or where it came from, but what I want to point out is this reminds us once again that maintaining internet security needs strengthened international cooperation. This again shows that China is a victim of hacking."
However, sources familiar with the Chinese government's web management operations told Reuters that a hacking attack was not to blame for the malfunction. They declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
They said the incident may have been the result of an engineering mistake made while making changes to the "Great Firewall" system the Communist Party uses to block websites it deems undesirable - such as the DIT site.