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Facebook Rises as 63.5 Million Users in China Skirt Ban

Facebook Tops 63 Million Users in China Despite Ban, Report Says
A woman uses a mobile phone as she stands next to statues in a popular shopping district in Beijing. Photographer: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Facebook Inc. shares advanced after researcher GlobalWebIndex said the social-networking site has seen an eightfold increase in users in China since that nation restricted access to the service in 2009.

Facebook users in China, the world’s largest Internet market, were 63.5 million in the second quarter of this year, from 7.9 million in 2009, London-based researcher GlobalWebIndex said in a blog post yesterday.

Facebook gained 6.6 percent to $21.66 at the close in New York, their biggest jump since Sept. 12. The shares have fallen 43 percent since their May 17 market debut.

Sites blocked in China can be accessed through 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.

Closely held Twitter Inc. saw users triple to 35.5 million in the same period, GlobalWebIndex said.

While they have grown, Facebook and Twitter 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.

Local Sites

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.

Facebook has been restricted in China since 2009. Prior to selling its shares to the public, the company said in its prospectus to investors that the Chinese market “has substantial legal and regulatory complexities that have prevented our entry.”

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