From USA Today

When Chinese student Rachel Zhang discovered Twitter last April, she realized her "little dream" of sharing with strangers the movies that made her laugh and the books that made her cry.

Then, in July, Beijing blocked the U.S.-based microblogging site, where users post brief updates as fast as they can tap on their cellphones.

Zhang, 24, a postgraduate student at Communication University of China, fell silent. That is, until Chinese media giant Sina launched its own Twitter-like service recently. But that service came with a price: Chinese authorities can monitor traffic and curtail its use.

"No one likes to have second thoughts before writing personal blogs," she says.

Microblogging — the sending of brief text, audio or video to select groups — is growing rapidly among China's estimated 360 million Internet users, according to New Weekly magazine in China. The magazine's Jan. 15 cover story is titled "Micro Revolution."

China shut down Twitter access after it was used to transmit images and messages about riots against the government in western China. YouTube and several other social-networking sites remain blocked, too. But there are many sites that the "Great Firewall of China," as it is widely known, has not impeded.

Even on those sites, there is "more debate and criticism by Chinese people than at anytime in history," China Internet specialist Jeremy Goldkorn says.

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