September 28, 2012

Facebook Tops 63 Million Users in China, Report Says

(Corrects year Facebook had 7.9 million users in China in second paragraph of story originally published Sept. 27.)
Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have millions of users in China despite bans on the social networking services in the world’s largest Internet market, according to the results of a survey released today.

Facebook grew to 63.5 million users in China in the second quarter of this year from 7.9 million in 2009, London-based researcher GlobalWebIndex said in a blog post today. Twitter users tripled to 35.5 million in the same period.

Sites blocked in China can be accessed via so-called proxy services, which connect users to servers outside the country so they can visit sites that are filtered. The workarounds have helped Facebook and Twitter compete with local sites including microblogging service Sina Weibo, said Tom Smith, founder of GlobalWebIndex.

“It only takes a little bit of desk research to discover that what is called the Great Firewall is actually much more porous than the Chinese government would like to admit,” Smith said in the blog post.

Despite their rapid growth, the two social networks are smaller in China than Qzone, a website operated by Tencent Holdings Ltd., with 286.3 million users. Local rival Sina Weibo had 264.1 million users. Google+, the social network created by Google Inc. last year, had 106.9 million users. China has 513 million Internet users, according to the government-backed China Internet Network Information Center.

GlobalWebIndex asked 2,000 Chinese Internet users earlier this year which social sites they have created an account for, and which ones they used in the past month.

Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California- based Facebook, and Jim Prosser, a spokesman for San Francisco- based Twitter, both declined to comment.

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