News / Asia

    China's Access to Foreign-Based Social Networking Sites Still Low

    Chinese youth use computers at an Internet cafe in Beijing (File Photo)
    Chinese youth use computers at an Internet cafe in Beijing (File Photo)
    VOA News
    A recent report that claims strong growth in Chinese Internet users' access to Facebook and Twitter is being rebuked in China, where analysts say that, although people are becoming more web savvy, only a small fraction of the mainland's Internet community has the tools to penetrate the government's online censorship.

    The London-based Internet research firm GlobalWebIndex said that around eight percent of Chinese Internet users or "netizens" are on Twitter and 15 percent are on Facebook, despite both social media sites being blocked within the country.

    But Michael Anti, a well known Chinese blogger, magazine columnist and advocate for online freedom, says that the report greatly overestimates Western social media penetration in China.

    “The fact is [that] only one percent of the Chinese users can reach the free Internet,” he said,“If you depend on that [GlobalWebIndex's] number you have a wrong hope, and we can't live depending on the wrong hope,” Anti adds.

    China's Internet access has risen dramatically in the past decade. According to official statistics more than half a billion people are online in China, but the government retains control over servers within its borders, and bans content it deems controversial.

    Online social networking services with servers located outside China, like Twitter and Facebook, can only be accessed using circumvention tools. A virtual private network, or VPN, for example, is a technology that protects Internet communication. Companies outside China provide VPN services that allow users to browse the Internet privately through a server located abroad, thereby avoiding the blocks China imposes on its domestic Internet.

    Anti says that though many netizens use these services to access sensitive information that the Chinese censors block, an increasing number of people bypass China's Internet filters for commercial reasons.

    “Even China Daily [a state-backed news agency] has advertisements on Twitter,” he said, “VPNs [are] not only for you to reach particular sensitive news but also it makes the communication online safer,” he adds.

    The global market research company International Data Corporation recently predicted double digit growth in the Chinese demand for Internet security products, with Firewall and VPN services accounting for almost 40 percent of that growth.

    Most Internet security firms do not give details on the number of people buying their VPN services, or how consumers in China are using their products. But a 2010 study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University found that in countries where the Internet is heavily filtered, less than 3 percent of the netizens use circumvention tools.

    Jon Russel, Asia editor of The Next Web, an online magazine on Internet and technology, acknowledges a trend towards more widespread use of Internet security tools, including VPNs, but says that the average Chinese netizen still has no real need to use foreign based social networking sites.

    “In the absence of these services like Twitter or Facebook the homegrown networks have become very strong and very, very popular,” he said.

    Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like site, has 300 million registered users, and has become one of China's most powerful platforms to share comments, videos and pictures online.

    Censorship within China's domestic sites, like Weibo, is extremely common, and often implemented by the companies themselves in effort to avoid angering authorities.

    Russel says that this type of self-censorship is more harmful for Chinese netizens. Keywords currently blocked on Weibo include the names of high-ranking leaders, like Xi Jinping, expected to rise to the top seats of power during the next Party Congress next month.

    “Whenever there are very hot topics normally around politics you’ll find that searches on certain topics or certain names can’t be found,” he said, “That’s more of an example where the censorship policy is having a greater effect on Chinese Internet users.”

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NYC
    October 06, 2012 1:03 AM
    Censorship is the hallmark of a dictatorship & China is governed by a one-party dictatorship. The CCP censors the Internet & media to prevent its people from criticizing the Party & demanding reforms. It's one way the CCP attempts to control the Chinese people & deny them their civil rights.

    by: Mandy Chen from: China
    October 03, 2012 4:30 AM
    I don't want to judge the opinions in this article are right or wrong. The only thing is the picture is too old for now. May be it is 10 years ago. In the small town we even didn't use them in the internet cafe. But it is true that we cann't access twitter, facebook and youtube.

    by: gas bon
    October 02, 2012 5:50 PM
    these people can access to social media,things are so diffient from computer by occupied by somebodys.if this is victory.watch out.

    by: remie from: canada
    October 02, 2012 7:16 AM
    Thats why they believe their fictional history and propaganda spread by their government
    In Response

    by: WEI
    October 02, 2012 10:33 PM
    i think Chinese should tell westerners especially American that the situation in USA is the same as China in cyber world
    In Response

    by: jonathan huang from: canada
    October 02, 2012 12:49 PM
    you mean protecting them from the harmful west propaganda?

    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    October 02, 2012 10:30 AM
    not exactly right

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora