Home Some In China Get Around Government’s Twitter Censorship

Some In China Get Around Government’s Twitter Censorship

Social media use grew 300% in China last year and more than half of the country’s 500 million users are on a social network, according to a government report released last week.

And that’s why Chinese New Year became the most micro-blogged event in history, with 481,207 messages posted in the first minute of the year on a Chinese, Twitter-like service, as well as 32,312 messages posted in a single second: well above Twitter’s record of 25,088 tweets in a second. Still, many Chinese, both in China and abroad, are finding ways to use Twitter to talk free of government censorship.

Because of Chinese government blocks on U.S.-based social networks like Twitter and Facebook, most of the messages are posted on Twitter-like copycats known as weibos. But an increasing number of Chinese dissidents are turning to Twitter, where they can discuss their homeland free of government censorship and without having to register their social media accounts under their real names, as now required under Chinese law.

While English-language users may lament the 140-character limit Twitter places on messages, users who tweet in character-based languages like Chinese are capable of recording whole paragraphs, according to Yaxue Cao, a writer who has been blogging about her experience on Twitter.

As reported by the New York Times, mainland Chinese users need to have enough technical know-how to circumvent the Great Firewall of China to use Twitter. That means conversations are more intimate, while also being more frank, than those on the government-monitored weibos. On Twitter, mainland Chinese Twitter users can interact with dissidents, including former student organizers who were exiled following the 1989 Tienanmen Square uprising.

“When one of them (@wurenhua) tweeted about his recent conversation with his 80-year-old mother over the phone and why the mother and son had avoided video chatting (so that they can hide sadness from each other), you get a glimpse of what this exile entails,” Yaxue write on her blog.

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