Facebook and the Great Firewall of China

3 Jul 2008

Is China blocking Facebook? Reports have been circulating on the net that the popular social networking site is inaccessible from some of the major cities in the country with some users experiencing partial downtime while others are getting around this using a VPN (virtual private network)

Internet censorship in the People’s Republic of China in the past is well documented and web access is controlled by state-owned internet service providers (ISPs).

This was further reinforced by legislation implemented in 2000 which stated that websites based in China could neither link to other sites in outside countries nor contain news as reported by overseas media without state approval.

On the other hand, Facebook has just launched a Chinese-language version of its site on 24 June, which could be attributed to the downtime as the site makes it transition from the original English-language base.

Users of Chinese site Danwei.org have varying opinions on this: some say Facebook is not the only problem and that access to MySpace, Google Images and YouTube is blocked or partially so.

Others cite technical problems: “Aren’t people being too cynical and paranoid? Facebook is working all the time for me in Xinjiang, and considering it’s Xinjiang, I doubt there are [sic] any move on part of the Government to block it. Just relax, just some technical problems,” said Enze, a commenter on Danwei.

According to news site TechWhack News, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to learn of reports that users in China are having difficulty getting access to Facebook.

“We have not made any changes to our site that would create access problems and are looking into the situation.”

By Marie Boran

Pictured:Mark Zucherberg, 24-year-old founder and CEO of Facebook