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Chinese get past censors and onto Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

The Far East government is known for strict censorship when it comes to social networking, but this week its citizens caught onto a glitch in the system and glimpsed an uncensored world.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr

China's "Great Firewall" is the tongue-in-cheek way to refer to the Chinese government's blocking and censorship of Web sites. And, somehow, that wall has been fractured this week.

It all started when Chinese citizens flooded President Obama's Google+ page over the weekend, leaving thousands of messages ranging from jokes to begging the U.S. president to do something about China's civil rights issues.

Now, Reuters reports that Chinese Internet users have accessed YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter--all sites normally blocked by the Great Firewall.

"I used Facebook for the first time yesterday," Zhang Wenjin, a student at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, told Reuters yesterday. "I went on and took a look. I'm sure there were suddenly a lot of people who signed up on Facebook yesterday."

The Chinese government has set up alternate social-networking sites--the most popular is a microblogging platform called Weibo. However, according to government rules, anyone who uses this site and other local social-networking sites must register their real names for verification by government authorities. Also, certain topics are taboo on these sites.

It's unclear how people got onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, but according to Reuters people were able to access the sites on both mobile phones and desktops on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, however, the Great Firewall was back up again.