The number of active Facebook users in China has hit 63.5 million in the second quarter of 2012, growing by 7.9 million people over the past two years, despite an ongoing ban of the service in the country.
In a survey released Thursday, London-based researcher GlobalWebIndex said while Facebook officially do not have subscribers in China--even declaring this fact in its IPO prospectus--the country showed impressive growth in the number of users.
The research firm based its findings on seven "waves" of self-completed surveys conducted over three years starting from July 2009. "Our samples are defined by age, gender, education level to be as representative of that population as possible," it said.
GlobalWebIndex added while the social networking site is banned in China, users can still access the site via VPNs (virtual private networks), VCNs (virtual cloud networks, or Internet connections at work that may be routed internationally. This means users usually not captured as China-based subscribers by analytics software were included in the firm's figures.
However, the U.K. research company's figures have been disputed. Tech news site The Next Web, for one, said the survey size of 8,000 was not representative and cannot be extrapolated to represent China's 538 million Internet users.
It also argued not that many users would have installed VPNs or the technical knowhow to circumvent the country's Great Firewall to access Facebook.