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Is China loosening its restrictions on Facebook and Twitter?

Every time there’s a report that says China is finally opening its arms to social media, we admit, we get pretty excited. Today, a couple of news outlets have sourced a South China Morning Post exclusive that supposedly cited an anonymous source who claimed he was able to use his gadgets to access both Twitter and Facebook at the lobby and his room at the ritzy St. Regis Beijing Hotel, where U.S. presidents come to stay on their visits to the country. The source further confirmed his experience, stating that his acquaintances that have stayed in other 5-star establishments have also been able to log onto the two social sites.

Many were quick to correct erroneous interpretations of the SCMP report. “Apparently no-one at the SCMP knows how the Internet works,” a user commented on Shangaiist.com. “The authorities have not ‘lifted control.’ The hotels have VPNs built into their Wi-Fi. Siif Bar in Beijing, a tiny little hutong dive, has the same thing. As does the NYT office.”

Currently, the original post is ironically protected from public access, and it seems that out of all the opinion columns published today, it’s the only one with such restrictions. This could be taken as a sign that yes, while the Chinese government has been known to temporarily lift firewall controls to accommodate tourists and international functions, contrary to what some reports insinuate, China isn’t quite prepared to relinquish complete Internet freedom to its citizens.

Hope is not completely lost, though. Sina Weibo, which is essentially China’s version of Twitter, was recently found to allow new sign ups using Facebook. Anyone logging into Weibo Taiwan or Weibo HK will be able to see the very familiar Facebook icon near the log-in portion of the site, and clicking on it will allow users to cross-post on the social site via their Weibo accounts. For now, this new feature is only available to users based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but plans to expand to other territories are reportedly in place.

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