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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid