Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has been officially blocked in China, but that doesn’t stop its die-hard users there. The social platform estimates that it has about 10 million active users in China, although the number is minute in a nation of 1.4 billion people.
A win for Twitter and China
Previous estimates put total Chinese membership for Twitter at around 25.5 million users, but an inside source at the company confirmed that the estimate of the number of users in China is closer to 10 million, says TechCrunch. This itself is an educated guess, however, as even Twitter doesn’t have a precise way to count its users in China.
Though the numbers are small, they could prove a boon not only for Twitter but for a freer Internet in China where one has to use VPN to log onto Twitter. The software allows the user to bypass Chinese censors by using an Internet connection outside the country. This means the person who is actually using the service from China will appear to be accessing the service from the place the VPN is sent to, which might be the U.S. or Australia.
“China having 10 million users is rather great news as this is the biggest platform for freedom of speech,” Charlie Smith, one of the pseudonymous founders of the anti-censorship group Great Fire, told TechCrunch in an email.
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Smith believes there is a growing number of people who want to circumvent censorship to access the information they choose.
Twitter has paid users too
Twitter’s largest set of users is based in the U.S, accounting for 21% of the company’s approximately 310 million total active user base. In comparison, the U.S. firm holds a much smaller share in China. This doesn’t mean that Twitter makes no money in the country. Many Chinese companies, including the nation’s state-run media channels, pay to advertise and distribute content on the platform to reach the global audience.
It’s unlikely that the micro-blogging firm will take the necessary action to get itself unblocked while there is fierce competition in the social media space. LinkedIn was able to unblock itself by caving to censorship demands and self-policing user content, so one must not expect Twitter’s China-based user numbers to grow anytime soon.
Twitter’s China figure came right after the news that Twitter has appointed former Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bred Taylor to its board.
At 9:47 a.m. Eastern today, Twitter shares were down 1.43% at $16.90. Year to date, the stock is down more than 24%, while in the last year, it is down almost 53%.