Rachel Lu

[April Fools]: China Unblocks Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, But With a Twist


[Ed - we apparently cannot emphasize enough the following: This article is a joke. It was published on April Fool's Day.]

[With April 1 now past, Tea Leaf Nation's editors would simply like to caution: please note the date of publication. We hope you had a lively April Fool's Day!]

The Chinese government announced that it will allow domestic users to access Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, while also lifting censorship controls on domestic social networks such as Sina Weibo. However, Chinese users will be required to pay a monthly subscription fee for the privilege.

This move may signify the crumbling of the Great Firewall of China, the system that currently prevents Chinese users from visiting many restricted sites overseas. China is one of only four countries in the world that restricts access to Facebook.

While there have been many false dawns before, including a visit by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to China in 2012, the Chinese government seems to be serious about allowing access this time, because it now stands to collect billions of dollars from eager users.

Miao Wei, the minister of Industry and Information Technology, stated at a press conference:

With the best interest of China’s 564 million Internet users at heart, we have devised a plan that would allow them to access certain foreign websites. If any user with a Chinese IP address accesses such websites, the relevant telecom operator would automatically deduct a flat fee of 100 RMB (about US$16) a month from the user’s account. We believe this fee is not onerous. It would help pay for the extra investment in patriotic education that would be required after the implementation of this plan.

The ingenious move to start charging Chinese users for free Internet services seems to be an expansion of the government’s plan that would require users to pay a fee for WeChat, a hitherto free mobile messaging service developed by China’s web giant Tencent. Tencent has repeatedly stated that it wants to keep WeChat free for its 300 million users, but the government has insisted on imposing fees in order to protect the voice and SMS business of China’s powerful state-owned telecom operators.

It’s also a chance for China’s censors to take a much-needed break. Domestic censorship requires constant monitoring of keywords and images deemed “sensitive” by authorities. Much of that work requires manual human labor, which can get repetitive. One Sina employee recently transferred from “content management” to marketing rejoiced: “If I had to log on one more day to delete the umpteenth Chairman Mao joke, I would have lost it.” Meanwhile, Fang Binxing, the much-maligned creator of China’s Great Firewall of censorship, recently admitted to official sources that he “found the whole thing exhausting.”

Miao also announced that anyone using Apple products, including iPhone, iPad and iMac, to access Facebook, Twitter and Youtube would be charged RMB200 per month. The move is believed to be a part of the Chinese government’s ongoing campaign to discredit Apple in China.

Happy April Fool’s Day from Tea Leaf Nation! 

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • BulgAryan

    Looks like an April Fools Joke

  • http://www.facebook.com/floressas Jojje Olsson

    My Chinese gf tried this April joke on me today. And just as Tea Leaf nation, she failed :)

    • ttsaon

      vpn will help you vpntraffic.com

  • Liuzhou Laowai

    And not a very funny one.

  • lucy

    ugh i wish that was true

  • Paul Schoe

    Very well written, too bad that I didn’t read it on April 1st.
    (still nice to forward though)

  • Aaron zheng

    Holy, i am writing a research paper on Censorship of China…if this is real, u would have destroyed my paper!

    • Redsunset

      Sorry..you may just have to do that..I am in Beijing and am happily surfing Facebook.

  • travel-to-china.org

    Maybe some day the firewall will be taken down. But yeah, that was a nasty joke.

  • The Guy Who Failed

    Thanks… now I have to re-write my paper….

  • Redsunset

    Actually China has the last laugh…I am in China now and can get on Facebook and Youtube today!!

    • tania

      hello. im in Zhejiang province, i´m portuguese. how can you access facebook and you tube?

      • SeekTruthFromFacts

        Tania, you need to buy a service called a VPN. Look on Bing for “VPN” – many websites will be blocked but one of them will work.

      • Alfred

        hi im in China too, on biz trip. I am using this vpn , it is much more reliable than others and its cheap too. Hope this helps.

  • peter

    In China you can use 999vpn on facebook, for more information search 999vpn

  • Ann Moroz

    My brother who lives in China uses vpn account (http://vpn-account.com) to unblock websites and it works fine.

  • Elipse

    Ugh dammit, I should have know this earlier, or I won’t waster my life to develop such useless App : Bird Unchain – Tweet Anywhere https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bird-unchain-tweet-anywhere/id656190986?mt=8

  • clqiao

    There is an iPhone/iPad app that support access Twitter from China out of box (no VPN required, no extra settings): Bird Unchain – Tweet Anywhere , give it a try.

  • xtremeaff

    Just use a VPN such as VPN Gate which is free. Or Private Internet Access: http://vpnverge.com/private-internet-access/ which is an inexpensive no log vpn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1372325064 Sandrine Gelloz

    I was in China many times and I have
    used a lot os software to have access to facebook ( yes I”m a facebook
    addict^^) but a lot of VPN are very expensive and not always easy to use, so I
    really advise you to use safer vpn, it’s simple and cheaper and it really works
    : http://safervpn.com/ ! You can also reach each website all over the world !

    Enjoy your freedom !

  • baby

    how can use facook in china

  • baby

    why in china cant use facebook,twitter,and youtube .. why

  • Shally

    Don’t think censorship in China will stop anytime soon. Apart from blocking foreign websites, they’re actively censoring contents on the local Weibo. For VPN, i recommend using http://senvpn.com. It’s quite good. I have used Astrill and 12VPN before. They work too. But senvpn is a little bit faster.

  • supah star

    Could you guys do another article like this for this coming April Fool’s? I missed the chance to fool my friends with this last year :(

  • Tauseef

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