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China lifts Facebook ban in Shanghai Free Trade Zone

Posting in Government

The Chinese government will lift a ban on Internet access within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, allowing businesses and visitors access to foreign websites usually censored and blocked by the aptly named "Great Firewall of China."

The landmark decision means that websites on China's blacklist, including Facebook, Twitter and The New York Times will be accessible, according to anonymous sources speaking to the South China Morning Post.

The Shanghai Free-trade Zone has been established to try and lure international businesses to Shanghai's shores, as the Asian country depends heavily on the economic benefits and foreign worker skill sets brought in by companies abroad. However, when Internet access is largely uncensored elsewhere, modern businesses -- who may also use sites including social media as part of their business strategy -- are likely to be deterred by widespread Internet blocking which also includes the occasional restriction to search engine sites such as Google.

The publication also says that bids by foreign telecommunications companies for licences to provide internet services within the new special economic zone would soon be welcome.

"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.

The decision to crack open some of China's firewall -- otherwise known as the Golden Shield project -- only applies to the free trade zone, and nowhere else in the country.

This is not the first time China has loosened restrictions on social media. In time for the last World Cup, the Asian country lifted a corner of its firewall at the five-star Mission Hotel to allow foreign visitors uncensored access to the Web.

Via: South China Morning Post

Image credit: Flickr

— By on September 23, 2013, 9:41 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure