Data from GlobalWebIndex, a research firm based in London, which is conducting an ongoing study on internet usage, revealed that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter grew in China, despite the Chinese government’s implementation of the infamous “Great Firewall” that censors access to numerous websites.
According to GlobalWebIndex, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) users in China increased from 7.9 million in 2009, to 63.5 million during the second quarter of 2012. Twitters users went up from 11.8 million, to 35.5 million during the same period.
Based on the data, China is the third largest market for the social network giant, behind Brazil, the second largest market, with 58.5 million Facebook users, based on the current statistics of socialbakers, a social marketing research firm. The United States has 166.14 million Facebook users, which is the number one market for the social networking giant.
GlobalWebIndex came up with the result by using self-completion surveys in Mandarin (Simplified Chinese for Mainland China). An internationally accredited online panel conducted the survey in seven waves of research, and the respondents were defined by age, gender, and educational attainment.
The overall result of the survey showed that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) held 15 percent and Twitter held an 8 percent share in the Chinese Internet marke,t respectively. The majority of Chinese Internet users are active in using local sites, including Qzone (66 percent), Sina Weibo (61 percent), Tencent Weibo (56 percent), and RenRen (37 percent). The survey also revealed that Google+ has a 25 percent market share in China.
The research firm admitted the possibility that the results of the survey may not be correct, since the Chinese government blocked access to Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter. GlobalWebIndex wrote, “We routinely come across the argument that these sites are blocked in China, and therefore, our figures cannot possibly be correct. However, 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. On closer inspection, Chinese users are using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), VCN (Virtual Cloud Networks) or connections at work that may be routed internationally. Crucially, this means that users won’t be picked up in analytics, and will not register as being in a Chinese location at all!”
Ron Russel of TNW Asia believes the GlobalWebIndex data is incorrect. He compared the figures to Facebook’s own statistics, which indicated that the social network giant recorded 611,640 registered users, age 13 and above in China. According to him, the number of Twitter users in China is unclear, since the company “closely guards its figures.” Russel also cited an estimate from Michael Anti, a Chinese blogger and censorship expert, who said that there are approximately 100,000 Twitter users in China. He also mentioned the comment from Charlie Smith and Martin Johnson, operators of Greatfire.org, a website dedicated in monitoring censorship in China, describing the data from GlobalWebIndex as “silly” and “dangerously misleading.”