China to lift Twitter, Facebook bans in Shanghai free-trade zone

Government hopes move will encourage financial and economic reforms, according to a South China Morning Post report.

In a bid to encourage international business in the new Shanghai free-trade zone, the Chinese government has decided to lift the ban on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Access to banned news sites such as the New York Times will also be allowed, according to a South China Morning Post report.

Aside from granting access to these services through the country's nationwide Internet filter, known popularly as the Great Firewall of China, there's another new first: foreign telecommunication companies can now bid for licenses to provide Internet services within the zone.

The Chinese government hopes that this decision will "encourage significant financial and economic reforms" in the free-trade zone, according to SCMP's sources. There are also plans to extend the free-trade zone to the entire Pudong district, if the first phase of the launch is successful.

Current visitors to China can already use Facebook and Twitter if they are using a roaming SIM card from overseas, though they may still occasionally experience problems connecting to foreign sites.

This article originally appeared at CNET Asia.

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