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US senators question LinkedIn’s link to the Chinese government after journalist ban

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

October 4, 2021 | 4 min read

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn has been questioned by a United States senator about why it has blocked access to US journalists for its China-based users.

“The censorship of these journalists raises serious questions about Microsoft’s intentions and its commitment to standing up against Communist China’s horrific human rights abuses and repeated attacks against democracy,” said Republican Rick Scott, in a letter to Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella and LinkedIn chief executive officer Ryan Roslansky.

“Members of the media report information that is critical to helping Americans, including members of Congress, understand the scope of Communist China’s abuses, especially its abuses against and surveillance of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”

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LinkedIn is the only major western social media platform that Beijing permits to operate in China

Why is this important?

  • Unlike Google, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is the only major western social media platform that Beijing permits to operate in China as it has agreed to take action against users deemed in violation of Chinese law.

  • It has blacklisted the accounts of Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and independent journalists Melissa Chan and Greg Bruno. They received takedown notifications from LinkedIn and their pages are now not viewable in China, nor are comments they post on the platform or any other content they share.

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  • Allen-Ebrahimian has been covering mass internment camps in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has been accused of subjecting Uygurs and other ethnic minority groups to detention, political indoctrination, and forced labor.

  • Bruno said LinkedIn told him content in the “publications” section of his page, which lists a 2018 book he wrote about China’s “soft-power war on Tibet” was the reason for his ban.

  • Chan’s page includes references to deteriorating press freedoms in what she calls the “authoritarian state” of China, as well as her expulsion from the country as a reporter in 2012.

  • LinkedIn has said in a statement it was a “global platform that respects the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China”.

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