I know, for Westerner in China not being able to access your Facebook account basically cripples your ability to keep in touch with the outside world. I personally think this has some very interesting implications about how western social networking is taking over our ways of communication - but that's not what this is about. I've been in China for almost four years now and I've kind of lot track of what's happening in the outside world. however, I recently had a friend of a friend come and visit me - he basically freaked out when he found out he couldn't use Facebook in China. He also couldn't use his iPhone in China which added to the problem. So I've put together this two-step "how to use Facebook in China" guide.
1. Tell your friends that you're going to China and if you don't respond to their messages, it's because your access to the site has been compromised. Everything is possible in China, and although there are ways that work today to help you use Facebook in China, they won't necessarily work tomorrow. Just in March of this year there was a bit of a fiasco with mobile devices accessing Facebook.
After the recent political change in Egypt and news saying that Facebook and Twitter caused the whole thing, China's Internet censors went on overdrive and blocked a bunch of stuff that usually let you use an iPhone access your Facebook account. Now there are some places that you can get on your Facebook account with iPhone, but most won't allow it. Laptops and desktops with anti-Internet censorship technology are still ok, but who knows what will happen tomorrow.
2. The most reliable way to get unbroken and reliable access to your Facebook account is called a VPN. There are other ways out there, but something called an "SSL/OpenVPN" is basically the most secure way to use Facebook in China. Despite the fact that most people just want to say stupid things and update their status on Facebook, there are those that want to use Facebook as a "messenger of freedom" and these guys are the reason the Chinese Government actively blocks Facebook.
The Golden Shield (The Great Firewall) gets stronger all the time and Facebook just gets put deeper and deeper behind the lines of Internet censorship. However, with an SSL/OpenVPN, your data is encrypted and tunneled, your IP address is changed, and you're made virtually invisible on the Internet so your Chinese ISP can't see what you're doing,and can't block your Facebook activity.
To tell you the truth, the whole Facebook controversy is up in the air right now. Rumor has it that Mark Zuckerberg is working with Baidu to bring a Facebook like site to China. Whether this will be able to connect with the Facebook we've grown to love and depend on is still unknown, and only time will tell. There are many things that are being more open to the West in China, but there are still many more that are becoming more closed. For now, if you're coming here for work or travel and want to continue to use Facebook in China then I'd suggest getting the VPN, or you may have to go "cold-turkey".
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