More Chinese Internet users are bypassing government censors to access banned sites such as Facebook and Twitter, reported UK technology website itproportal.com Monday.
Since 2009, leading US-based microblog services such as Twitter and Facebook have not been accessible in China due to a filtering ‘firewall’ placed by the Chinese government to block Chinese Internet users.
According to a new study by market research firm GlobalWebIndex on Chinese Internet usage over the past month, 25 percent of Chinese Internet users said they used Google+ while 15 percent accessed Facebook. Eight percent of the respondents also surfed Twitter.
The report added that in 2012, some 35 million Chinese netizens used Twitter, up from 11.8 million in 2009. Also, 65.2 million Chinese users said they visited Facebook in 2012, up from 7.9 million in 2009.
One of the reasons for this increase in Chinese netizens surfing banned sites such as Facebook is that the Chinese are using virtual private networks (VPNs), virtual cloud networks (VCNs), or internationally routed connections, to circumvent the government censors, GlobalWebIndex founder Tom Smith told the news website, "In short, the ‘Great Firewall’ is not as solid as many people think."
A VPN is a technology that protects Internet communication. For a fee, companies outside China providing VPN services will allow users to browse the Internet privately through a server located abroad, avoiding filters imposed by the Chinese government on the Internet. According to a recent study by global market research company International Data Corporation, demand in China for IT security products is now achieving a double-digit growth, with firewall and VPN services accounting for almost 40 percent of that growth, reported Voice of America’s news website this week.
Another reason why more Chinese are accessing banned sites is that China's increasingly active mobile community can now access them from a mobile phone app such as Flipboard from an iOS device. "Our Asian market experts routinely see examples of this such as the recent discovery that if someone downloads the Flipboard app they can access Twitter," Smith wrote in a GlobalWebIndex blog post last week. A well-known active Twitter user include famous Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei who reportedly has 120,000 followers.
Meanwhile, China’s home-grown social networks are blooming without Twitter or Facebook. As of June this year, Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular microblog services, boasted of having 368 million registered users while another leading microblog service, Tencent Weibo, claimed to have 337 million users, according to media reports.