China’s infamous tool of internet censorship the Great Firewall appeared to fail this week, allowing hundreds of web users in China to access and post comments on U.S. president Barack Obama’s Google+ page.
Google’s social networking service is blocked in China – like many other sites including Facebook and Twitter – for fear that it could provide a platform for social and political dissent.
The Communist Party enforces its stance with a range of country-wide internet monitoring and IP-blocking technologies collectively known as the Golden Shield Project.
Mashable reports that China’s notorious firewall was down temporarily this week, allowing the Chinese to access Facebook, Twitter,YouTube and other social websites usually blocked by the country’s strict Internet controls.
“I can suddenly access YouTube! No need to breach the firewall!” Weibo user Arvin Xie posted on Tuesday. Weibo is a microblogging platform, similar to Twitter, that allows users to post short messages and follow other users.
China shuts down access to millions of foreign sites each year. The government believes that uncensored access to social networks would cause societal disruption. The cause of the breach is currently unknown, Reuters reports.
While it’s one of the most sophisticated and large-scale systems of its kind on the planet, it’s not infallible – although this has certainly been the most high-profile breach in recent memory.
Internet users say the were able to access sites — without using expensive VPNs, as some do — Monday night and Tuesday. By Wednesday, however, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were again blocked.
“I used Facebook for the first time yesterday,” Zhang Wenjin, 23, a student at Shanghai’s prestigious Jiao Tong University told Reuters on Tuesday.
“I went on and took a look. I’m sure there were suddenly a lot of people who signed up on Facebook yesterday,” Zhang said, adding that she had also signed up for an account.
Over the weekend, Chinese users also gained access to Google Inc’s social networking site, Google+ and flooded U.S. President Barack Obama’s page on the site with calls for greater freedom in the world’s most populous country.
“It is important to persistently let the world know about CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] evil deeds against China and Chinese people,” another commenter wrote.
“I think that you also should get organised with a clear plan and with clear task responsibility. Do not forget to communicate with those who are living within China,” he added.
Google+ is currently blocked through regular desktop access but its mobile application, which let users in China access the site, has become accessible recently.
China, with more than 500 million Internet users, is the world’s largest and most vibrant Internet community.
Home-grown social networks, such as Sina Weibo (a microblog Twitter substitute) and Renren (a Facebook-like network) are popular, yet censor content in accordance with government regulations.