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Porn Star Aoi Sola Prompts Chinese to Jump ‘Great Firewall’

TAIPEI, Taiwan from www.aolnews.com — In the past few weeks, thousands of Chinese netizens have successfully jumped the “Great Firewall,” China’s cyberblockade on sensitive Internet content.

But they’re not after democracy, human rights or Taiwan independence websites. No, they’re chasing a Japanese porn star.

The porn star in question, Aoi Sola, launched a Twitter site at the end of March. Her Chinese fans went nuts over the news — but then realized Twitter is blocked in China.

No matter — they’ve been distributing software among themselves that allows a user inside China to get around the “Great Firewall.” Thousands have piled into Aoi Sola’s Twitter site already, in a wave of interest that took the Japanese star by surprise.

“What sparked so much discussion about me by Chinese people? What happened?” she wrote, according to the Dongguan Times. “Please tell me.”

The flock to Aoi’s Twitter site shows how easy it is for determined Chinese to get around Beijing’s cybercontrols. But it also highlights what types of content will actually motivate them to go through the trouble.

“In China you can get anything you want on the Internet, you just have to want to bad enough,” said David Wolf, a Beijing-based tech industry expert at Wolf Group Asia.

The Dongguan Times ran photos of the star with an April 13 article headlined “Japanese ‘top girl’ opens microblog, 15,000 Chinese netizens ‘jump the wall’ to pay homage.” The paper reported that users who needed a helping hand over the Great Firewall could get instructions by e-mailing [email protected].

An e-mail to that mailbox got an automated response with detailed instructions in Chinese on how to access Twitter from inside China, plus links.

China’s Great Firewall consists of sophisticated controls to block Chinese users’ access to content deemed sensitive by the Beijing government. Such content includes excessive criticism of the central government, promotion of Tibet or Taiwan independence, anything related to the banned religious group Falun Gong and pornography.

Wolf said the most common means of jumping the Great Firewall are with a proxy server, which “masks” a user’s location and activity, or with a virtual private network that creates a “private tunnel through the Internet.” The latter is used by foreign banks and other firms in China to secure data transmission, he said, but it is not that easy for normal Chinese to get one.

“It’s simple for someone with some minimal technical acumen” to scale the Great Firewall, said Wolf. “But that means that it’s too difficult for most of China.”

Aoi Sola’s fans got up to speed quickly. In a post on her blog translated by Danwei.org, a writer purporting to be her gave a shout-out to the wall jumpers. “The ‘Twitter incident’ has caused reverberations in China and Japan. Speaking truthfully, this was a little unexpected, even for me,” Danwei.org’s translation read.

“Speaking ‘without modesty,’ I know that there are some Aoi fans in Asia,” she wrote. “But when I directly faced the figures on Twitter, I could hardly hide my surprise. Thanks everybody for tweeting about me.”

As of today, Aoi had more than 54,000 followers on Twitter, where her “tweets” are generally pretty banal. In one recent “tweet,” she writes about an iPad purchase, in Japanese and English (“Listen!! I bought [an] i pad !! yeah! yeah!” she says). She has also put a PG-rated music video on YouTube, which you can watch below.

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