China’s Internet population tops 500m

Chinas Internet populationBEIJING: China now has more than 500 million people on the Internet and nearly half use weibos, microblogs similar to Twitter that can circumvent the country’s powerful censors, official data showed Monday.

The weibos have become hugely popular platforms for people to vent their anger over perceived injustices or corruption and organise and spread news of protests, posing a challenge to government attempts to control information.

Almost 56 million Chinese — equivalent to nearly the population of Britain — used the Internet for the first time in 2011, taking the country’s vast online population to 513 million. China already had more Internet users than anywhere else in the world. The rise in the number of people using the weibos was particularly dramatic, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) figures show, jumping to 250 million from just 63 million at the end of 2010.

“Chinese authorities are more and more concerned about the Internet because it’s such a decentralised medium and so difficult to control,” said David Bandurski, a Hong Kong-based researcher at the China Media Project.“Since 2005, the whole focus of control of information has shifted from traditional media to the Internet.” China regularly blocks web content it deems politically sensitive in a vast censorship system dubbed the “Great Firewall of China” and is hugely concerned about the power of the Internet to influence public opinion. – Nation