New app frees China’s biggest social network from censorship

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This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Tweets on politically sensitive topics in China are routinely censored. The new FreeWeibo app unblocks them.

Disclosing tweets that have been censored by Chinese government. Using cutting-edge technology to promote free speech. FreeWeibo does the trick.

FreeWeibo is the work of a China-based American developer who works under the alias Martin Johnson. In October 2012, Johnson started FreeWeibo. But because the site was quickly blocked, its audience is restricted to those in China who can circumvent the Great Firewall: 10,000 tech-savvy visitors a day.

An unblockable app
Now Johnson, who wants to stay anonymous for security reasons, hopes to broaden his audience. “If we want to make a real difference, we need to reach out to people who have no idea yet of what is being censored,” he says. Johnson believes the app can “create awareness of what is censored, and how much”.

Chinese censors
With support from RNW’s tech team, he developed a FreeWeibo iOS app with a content feed that cannot easily be blocked by Chinese censors, and which only Apple itself can decide to remove from the Apple Store.

RNW was happy to support Johnson’s mission. “Our organisation supports local initiatives that contribute to free speech,” Editor-in-chief William Valkenburg says. “We don’t only produce content for China ourselves, we also create channels for open debate. Without a space to discuss and share information, free speech loses its value.”

The FreeWeibo app can be downloaded from the App Store. Visit FreeWeibo for more information.