The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has just published the first ever “Blue Book on Social Media”, an annual report on new media developments in Mainland China including SNS, blogs, online video sites, mobile TV and digital newspapers.
It seems like Facebook or Twitter would remain blocked for some time in Mainland China as the report states that these SNS are posing spy risks or privacy leaks for gathering Chinese netizens’ personal information and selling off to third parties without full consent of users. (But isn’t it the same case for Kaixin or Renren?)
Yet the Blue Book acknowledges that social media is going mainstream and has become particularly important in reporting breaking news, taking the example of the Beijing Olympics as well as the NPC and CPPCC meetings in 2009.
According to the CNNIC Jan 2010 figures, 45.8% (176 million) of Internet users in Mainland China uses social media networks. With the increase in popularity of SNS, more brands and businesses are making headway to social networking sites like Kaixin, Renren or Sina microblog. The booming number of viral marketing promotions and the potential threats of privacy leaks have somehow frightened CASS. In the report, it raised doubts on whether the operation of the SNS sector is well regulated.
Though CASS has not stated any regulation recommendation for SNS businesses in China, as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government (CASS is a government-funded research organization), the report can be seen as a warning sign to social media businesses to better behave themselves and align their operation to government mandates.
So I guess it will be a long time before Mainland users can access Facebook or Twitter without the blessings of a VPN.