China state-linked microblog service hacked at launch

By Features IDG.net

A Twitter-style service offered by a government-linked news site in China was hacked and has since gone offline, according to screenshots posted on the Web.

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A microblog service launched Tuesday by the Web site of the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, added to the growing number of Twitter-style services offered in China but became inaccessible by Wednesday. Screenshots posted in Chinese online forums showed the service before it went offline bombarding visitors with a set of pop-up messages apparently added by a hacker.

Some were satirical notes about the state-run newspaper or the "Great Firewall of China," an informal name for the set of Internet controls China uses to block Web sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

"The People's Daily Online has been conquered by the people," one of the messages said. "If you see this message it means you you may be victim of the [Great Firewall], please quickly immigrate or topple it," said another.

The Web site for the microblog service later went blank. The newspaper did not immediately reply to e-mailed questions, but a customer service representative said by phone that the service had only been in test mode and that news about its formal launch would be posted on the site.

Pictures of the pop-up messages were also posted through Twitter and on Flickr.

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Large Chinese portals like that run by the People's Daily have joined local startups in launching microblog services. China is a huge market with the largest number of Internet users in any country, but the services have been challenged by government censorship. Some Chinese microblog services remain offline after going down at the same time as Twitter months ago, when the government partly blamed social-networking sites for helping lead to unrest.

The latest microblog is the first offered by a Chinese state news outlet. Others, like state broadcaster CCTV and the China Daily newspaper, have tried to tap a different tech craze by offering applications for the iPhone.

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