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China’s Quiet Experiment Let Millions View Long-Banned Websites

  • Tuber let millions explore sites from Youtube to Instagram
  • Move suggests Beijing is experimenting while keeping control
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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

In a quiet experiment of just two weeks, China provided millions of people access to long-forbidden foreign websites like YouTube and Instagram. The trial appears to signal the Communist government is moving toward giving the country’s citizens greater access to the global internet -- while still attempting to control who sees what.

The Tuber browser-app, backed by government-linked 360 Security Technology Inc., appeared without fanfare late September and offered for the first time in years a way to view long-banned websites from Facebook Inc. to Google and the New York Times, albeit sanitized versions. Chinese users rejoiced in a newfound ability to directly peruse long-blocked content from a mobile browser without an illegal virtual private network or VPN.