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Great Firewall springs a leak: Chinese flood Obama's Google+ page

Free speech? In China?

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China’s infamous tool of internet censorship the Great Firewall appeared to fail last week, allowing hundreds of web users in the People’s Republic to access and post comments on US president Barack Obama’s Google+ page.

Google’s social networking service is blocked in China – like many other sites including Facebook and Twitter – for fear that it could provide a platform for social and political dissent. The Communist Party enforces its stance with a range of country-wide internet monitoring and IP-blocking technologies collectively known as the Golden Shield Project.

However, the leader of the Western world’s Google+ page was flooded with users posting in the simplified Chinese of the mainland from Friday, with content reportedly focused on issues of democracy and censorship in China.

Of those posting in English, some were clearly just happy to be there, while others used their time on the site to asking for freedom for political prisoners such as blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

Several more claimed they were staging their own tongue-in-cheek ‘Occupy’ protest on the president’s Google+ page.

Another, clearly astonished at the sudden influx of Mandarin on the site, wondered aloud whether Google had been bought by Baidu overnight.

Some claimed that Google+ had been available in China since the beginning of the week, although most comments in Chinese appeared on posts on Obama’s page from Friday through to Sunday. It’s pretty clear from reading them that he’s more popular in China than in the US at the moment.

The party may be over for those Obama-mad Chinese web users, however, with online censorship monitoring site greatfire.org claiming that the pages are now being blocked as usual.

It’s still unclear what caused the failure of the Golden Shield. While it’s one of the most sophisticated and large-scale systems of its kind on the planet, it’s not infallible – although this has certainly been the most high-profile breach in recent memory. ®

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