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LinkedIn ends operations in China after self-censorship backlash

LinkedIn paused new member sign-ups in China in March 2021

LinkedIn will end its operations in China more than a week after it was in the spotlight for blocking access to US journalists for its China-based users.

“We decided after facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China. We have not found the same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed,” the Microsoft-owned platform said in a statement.

What happened?

  • LinkedIn paused new member sign-ups in China in March 2021 to ensure it was following local law and better regulate its content.

  • LinkedIn then 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.

  • 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 said it would replace its Chinese service, which restricts some content to comply with local government demands, with a job-board service lacking social-media features, such as the ability to share opinions and news stories.

Why is this important?

  • Since 2014, LinkedIn is the only major western social media platform that Beijing permits to operate in China as it has agreed to act against users deemed in violation of Chinese law. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are not allowed to operate in the country as they refused to follow the law.

  • Former LinkedIn head Jeff Weiner insisted while the company supported freedom of expression, offering a localized version of its service in China meant adhering to local censorship requirements.

  • LinkedIn is used by Chinese exporters and businessmen to connect with foreign buyers for business-related relationships

  • Many Chinese professionals working in the technology sector, tend to use a local professional networking app called Maimai, which is run by Beijing Taou Tianxia Technology Development Co. Ltd, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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