Its government may be cracking down on social media across the country, but China still appears to have a lot of Twitter action going on within its borders. According to sources within Twitter, who spoke to TechCrunch about the latest numbers in the Asian nation, there are around 10 million active tweeters in China. And considering the platform has been blocked since 2009, that’s pretty impressive.
Bear in mind, of course, that this figure is largely conjecture, as Twitter itself isn’t 100-percent certain of just how large its user base is in the censor-prone country. The social media giant can only make estimates based on the number of users who connect to Twitter via VPN, which lets them bypass firewalls the country has in place that attempt to ban such sites. That said, not everyone who is using a VPN is using Twitter, so it’s tough to really determine what’s really going on inside the carefully guarded version of China’s web.
In any case, 10 million is small when compared to the company’s global numbers. 65 million people in the U.S. are active tweeters, and 245 million others use the service worldwide.
All the same, these numbers could be a boon not only for Twitter, but for a freer internet in China. “If there are 10 million Chinese on Twitter that is great news. Twitter is one of the last great bastions of relatively free speech. When was the last time 10 million Chinese could freely say what they feel, on any platform, without fear of reprisal?”
Charlie Smith, one of the pseudonymous founders of anti-censorship group Great Fire, told TechCrunch in an email. Smith added that he thinks “there are growing pockets of ordinary people who want to circumvent censorship so they can access whatever information they choose,” noting, “It’s fantastic that Twitter can provide us with an indication of how big this group might be.”