China: Facebook blocked? Not quite!

Just as pictures from Hong Kong's annual march for democracy began appearing on Facebook, a segment of the users of the social networking site in mainland China began blogging their troubles accessing the site altogether, seemingly fulfilling predictions made when news that a localized Chinese version of Facebook was in the works first surfaced last year. Zh-cn.facebook.com went live exactly two weeks before people began documenting access issues:

As these things go, experiences appeared to conflict with each other, leaving many left to conclude that Facebook itself was screwing them around.

Except for the new redirect to zh-cn.facebook.com, the situation at present appears to be mostly as it was, wherein tech-unsavvy Facebook users are left unable to access certain parts of Facebook containing so-called sensitive keywords. Ad hoc tests carried out by five friends of Global Voices Advocacy based in different parts of mainland China today showed that some Facebook groups can still only be loaded partway before freezing in an apparent keyword filter. Of the following Facebook groups, the fifth in order was consistently difficult (including with tests I ran myself) to access and appeared to result in a temporarily reset connection to facebook.com:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=16929680703
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7765017060
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2257397452
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5187862317
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2248992944
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=20894947280
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2222354198
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2561706410
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2229467649
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2213066526

If facebook.com really does end up getting blocked and users inside mainland China are forced instead to use zh-cn.facebook.com to set up groups like ‘Redress the Tiananmen Massacre’ or communicate with foreign media workers, will FB follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and filter or hand user-to-user messages over to Chinese police when asked? Or, with its robust user-created networks, will Facebook create an entirely new business model for penetration of the Chinese SNS market?

21 comments

  • Earlier on I had a problem logging into blogspot and later found out that China Great Firewall (GFW) has blocked the domain name with blogspot….

    Now, they have even blocked up http://www.facebook.com. This is ridiculous!! too much!! Oh well, I wondered what happened? why? when? and how can I get log in asap….

  • Tony

    This is unfortunatelly what we have to deal with when we are living in China. I have been living in ShenZhen for more than 2 years now and will probably be living here for many years to come so I am getting used to it. They are blocking pages on and off, youtube (still blocked), hotmail (opened again) etc. Hopefully they will reopen facebook soon again but don’t keep your hopes up. Luckily for us in SZ we can just go to Hong Kong to get to the civilisation in about 40-60 min. But no facebook there either though :(

  • Melissa

    Facebook doesnt work in Nanjing either, i cant access it at all not even on and off. and your quite right, youtube has been blocked for ages, last year it was blocked for a while and then they unblocked it again, but now its just crazy, now hardly any of the importand sites i can use to contact my friends back home work.

    I think that its just sad for the people in china, and for us foreigners.

  • Ashley

    I just see a “superpower” returning to the dark ages. Blocking things like youtube and facebook is intensely stupid, selfish, but most of all lazy. Just another manifestation of the Chinese people’s bewilderingly short-term mindset. They just don’t seem to be able to look ahead more than tomorrow’s lunchtime, and this behaviour will earn them no sympathisers whatsoever.

  • Pete

    This can’t go on for much longer. There are – of course – wiser minds within the government than those who play games with the net; wiser minds who know, as we know, that this sort of hubris creates dissent rather than quashing it. This is no longer about ‘governmental control’. This is about the propaganda-related departments trying to suppress the free flow of information and maintaining their powerbase for their own personal ends for as long as they can before they’re done away with and their activities – particularly those of aiding and abetting major criminal activity by suppressing news of its happening – lead many to the firing squad. Chinese netizens are becoming increasingly adept at exposing corruption and other criminal activiities the propagandists try to suppress because they profit by it. The last thing these lingering Maoists want are photo / text networking sites being widely used by the Chinese citizenry where they can’t directly control the content. They’re battling for their lives, now. That tends to make people fight dirty and quite irrationally. The Party needs to purge itself for once and for all. Here’s hoping the reformers can get control of it soon and stop this nonsense for once and for all.

  • Mirko

    How the heck can the chinese just block one of the most important communication websites for us foreingers?

    It’s like we would ban QQ they would be so screwed 2

    Such a selfish act is untolerable
    should this be a provocation?
    a decleration to war?
    or the goverment just cant handle crisis on there one but on the otherhand doesnt wants to involve other countries or even let them know about?

    Are they shitting us?
    Is it a shame for chinese citizies to actually know whats going on in there country ?
    or are they supposed to see all the good stuff and how great china is to cover the blackbook?

  • JC

    To everyone saying it’s selfish, you might as well go back to your home countries, write a petition, and tell them to end all tariffs. It’s the same thing – it’s less about not letting people access information than letting Chinese websites grow (e.g. xiaonei/renren, Youku and tudou)

  • Pete

    It’s not the same. Sure, China operates tariffs. Recently they announced that because Japanese cartoons were more popular with Children here than Chinese there’d be a ban on Japanese cartoons at prime time and only Chinese could be shown. The idea they might make better cartoons – ie., those that were made for children to enjoy and not garbage that had to kowtow to some idea of political correctness – never seemed to cross their minds. Then there are all the BBC wildlife programmes shown on Chinese TV without credit… not a tariff exactly, actually something far worse. I believe it’s called ‘theft’, but certainly something that makes CCTV unfairly competitive given that it can present others’ products as its own. Then there’s the biggest tariff the world has ever known in its entire history; control of the RMB such that ALL Chinese products are more competitive than their foreign rivals. Can’t get a bigger tarrif than that. None of this can I get particularly excited about… but net blocking is, and always has been, about something entirely different from making Chinese web sites more competitive. It’s about the control of information, no more and no less. To be sure the Maoists remaining in the party who are in charge of information control want to push people in the direction of the sites they control, but it’s hardly for commercial reasons…

  • Pete

    Incidentally, I must stress that I applaud the Party leaders, in particular Hu and Wen. I think they want to drag China out of the 17th century, (or, in Chinese terms, the 1970s), and are as pig-sick of all this nonsense as anyone.

  • Dave

    No FB here in Shandong, access seemed to have gone a while ago, plenty of “other” ways to access it though.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Digital Rights news from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up for weekly global internet censorship news!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

No thanks, show me the site