According to new data by a global Internet research company, social media use in China has reportedly skyrocketed over the last three years despite the government’s strict bans on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social-networking sites. The data estimates that Facebook users have increased from nearly 8 million to more than 63 million since July 2009, and Twitter users have gone from 11 million to 35 million. Despite these wild jumps in numbers, they are still only a small percentage of China’s population — with 15 percent of Chinese Internet users on Facebook and 8 percent on Twitter. Apparently, China’s “Great Firewall” is permeable …
According to the data, China’s own microblogging service, Sina Weibo, has 264 million users, a 61 percent of the Internet population,. It is estimated that China has more than 538 million users online, out of a total population of more than 1.3 billion people. Facebook has maintained that it doesn’t have any users in China, and earlier this month it said it didn’t have any plans to hit the Chinese market. The numbers given here might be misleading and possibly even false because the survey size was only 8,000, which is tiny compared to China’s massive population. However, Chinese users are getting past government censors by using proxy services that connect them to international servers. This means that users won’t be picked up in analytics and will not register as being in a Chinese location at all.
Past evidence shows that many Chinese users have the savvy to sneak past censors. In February, thousands of users temporarily got onto President Obama’s Google+ page. Then, days later, even more users flooded other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and some also got onto YouTube. China’s censors are notoriously fickle. Sometimes they ease up and sometimes they crack down, often based on the state of Sino-U.S. relations or other political factors.
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