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Rubio is off the mark on Chinese Internet access

The statement

"The Chinese government provides their people no access to the Internet."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a CPAC speech

The ruling

By a wide margin, China leads the world in the sheer number of citizens accessing the Internet, with 538 million estimated users as of June 2012, according to Internet World Stats, which tracks Web use across the globe. The United States ranks second with about 245 million. About 40 percent of China's population uses the Internet, placing it far below the penetration of many countries, including the U.S. at 78 percent. The major Internet providers in China are government-run telecom companies.

Rubio would have been on more solid ground if he said the Chinese government censors the Internet.

Although people in China can access the Internet through home computers, Internet cafes and smartphones, they face some censorship, said Adam Segal, a fellow who specializes in technology and development in China at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an email. Access to a number of American and foreign websites is blocked or filtered, such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, but there are some Chinese equivalents.

In addition, the government blocked access to the New York Times and Bloomberg for reporting on the wealth of the family of prime minister Wen Jiabao. And after the 18th Communist Party Congress got its start in November 2012, all Google programs, including Gmail and its search engine, could not be accessed in the country.

The names of top leaders, dissidents and references to the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square protests can also be blocked. To avoid that censorship, some people in China have referred to the protests as "May 35th."

According to the Times, all Internet traffic in China must pass through one of three computer centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, where computers known as the Great Firewall of China compare data with a list of keywords and Web addresses that are forbidden.

Some Chinese users try to get around the firewall and access forbidden sites through virtual private networks or VPNs, but China also cracked down on those services.

Rubio said, "The Chinese government provides their people no access to the Internet."

This is not true.

The Chinese can access the Internet, and they do it in numbers higher than any other country. However, the government blocks many popular Internet sites and censors content.

We rate this Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Rubio is off the mark on Chinese Internet access 03/21/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 10:40pm]

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