Chinese Internet Users Flood Obama's Google+ Page After Finding Firewall Hole

By: Qichen Zhang on 27 February 2012

After Chinese Internet users found a hole in the Great Firewall of China last week, many of them took advantage of the opportunity to visit President Obama's Google+ campaign page. On February 20, web users in the country noticed that Google+ was accessible after months of being blocked in China. Four days later, Obama's Google+ page had been flooded with Chinese comments.

Comments from Chinese users range from the comical to the critical, from making American pop cultural references to criticizing government censorship in China. The BBC reports that Chinese sought to "occupy" Obama's page as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Occupy movements in the United States. "We have no chance to occupy our president Hu," said commenter Wenbin Shang from Shanghai, referring to Chinese President Hu Jintao. "He hates internet and has no account on any sns website, so we can just occupy Obama, forgive us..." Several individuals wrote in asking for green cards. Other comments were more overtly political and subversive. Another commenter wrote, "Oppose censorship, oppose the Great Firewall of China!" Another user who went by Zhang Mian wrote, "Mr President, we want American freedom." However, according to editor Jeremy Goldkorn, the overwhelming tone of the Chinese inundation on Obama's Google+ profile was humorous:

Whether they were calling on the United States to liberate the Chinese Internet or calling on Obama to stop being an imperialist, the tone was overwhelmingly humorous. So I don't think anyone should take this as an indicator of U.S.-Chinese relations, or I don't think one should read too much into this. I think for lots of people participating, this was fun, just a game.

It remains unknown whether Google+ has suddenly become accessible in the country, or whether netizens were using mobile phones or VPNs to access the site. When the site was released in summer 2011, it was immediately blocked in China. Google representatives told Reuters that they have not made any recent changes to Google+ operations in China. Some suggest that the government actively lifted the ban on the social media site, but Internet experts argue differently. Mike Elgan, a Silicon Valley pundit, asked followers on his own Google+ page whether people in China could get on the website, and many responded that people in the country could circumvent the block using mobile devices or VPNs.