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China foreign website malfunction drives home Internet woes

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Internet users in China were unable to use a number of popular foreign websites on Monday, the latest in a series of challenges businesses and individuals have faced going online in the world's second-largest economy.

[SHANGHAI] Internet users in China were unable to use a number of popular foreign websites on Monday, the latest in a series of challenges businesses and individuals have faced going online in the world's second-largest economy.

Social media users first reported on Sunday that they were being sent to software website wpkg.org and travel website ptraveler.com when trying to access news websites like cnn.com, news portal yahoo.co.jp, and games website runescape.com, among others.

Reuters reporters in China also experienced similar issues.

Experts said that although the redirection was occurring because of a change of the code in websites' buttons that link to Facebook Inc, they did not know why this was happening. "If Chinese users visit a page which has the 'Login with Facebook' or 'Connect with Facebook' button, Facebook's Javascript code gets replaced with Javascript that's loaded from wpgk.org or ptraveler.com," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish software security firm F-Secure. "It doesn't make sense, so it might be accidental." Developers from wpkg.org were also unsure why traffic from inside China was being redirected to their site, Tomasz Chmielewski, the programme's project lead, told Reuters by email.

Facebook was not available for immediate comment, and China's Internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, was not available for immediate comment by telephone or fax outside business hours.

Access to the internet - both speed and stability - have long been a major issue especially among foreign businesses and individuals. This is especially the case when attempting to access overseas online services, which are regularly plagued by disruptions and blockages.

Internet services operated by Facebook, Google Inc and Twitter Inc, to name a few, are unusable in China. The country operates the world's most sophisticated censorship mechanism in order to quell sources of information the Communist Party sees as potentially destabilising or undermining its rule.

REUTERS