China Eases Internet Restrictions To Allow Facebook In Shanghai

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

China is opening up access to the likes of Facebook and Twitter in an area of Shanghai, whilst allowing foreign firms to compete against state-owned giants

China is to allow access to US-hosted sites like Facebook, Twitter and the New York Times,  in a small area of the country, hinting the country could be loosening its much-documented restrictions on Internet freedoms.

Such sites had previously been considered too much of a threat by the Chinese government, but they will now be accessible to those in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, sources told the South China Morning Post.

Foreign telecoms firms could also be allowed to bid for contracts in the area. Three large state-owned firms, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, are dominant across the superpower.

China © Stephen Finn, Shutterstock 2012China welcoming foreign firms?

“In order to welcome foreign companies to invest and to let foreigners live and work happily in the free-trade zone, we must think about how we can make them feel like at home. If they can’t get onto Facebook or read The New York Times, they may naturally wonder how special the free-trade zone is compared with the rest of China,” said one of the government sources.

China has two well-known operations, the Great Firewall and Golden Shield, that limit Internet usage in the country and carry out surveillance across those sites that are permitted.

Facebook has made numerous attempts to break the market. CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited the country last year, although it was unclear whether he was there for business or pleasure.

Even if Facebook did break China, it might have a hard time taking on the competition. Its closest rival would be RenRen, whilst Twitter-esque service Sina Weibo is also massively popular.

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