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Microsoft closing LinkedIn in China over increasing censorship

The Independent logo The Independent 17/10/2021 Anna Maria Romero
© The Independent Singapore

LinkedIn will soon be history in China. Intensifying state censorship has prompted Linkedin’s owner Microsoft’s decision to pull the plug on the version of the professional networking site in use in China.

The site had notified certain academics, journalists and human rights activists in recent months that their profiles were blocked in China because they contained prohibited content. The country’s Internet regulator had instructed LinkedIn to better regulate its content and gave it a deadline of 30 days to comply, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Back in March, the site had already made public its decision to temporarily stop signing up new members to ensure that it complied with local regulations.

LinkedIn’s exit is more significant than just one more social media site running afoul of China’s regulators and deciding it was easier to leave than try to work things out.

Its exit also spells the end of every major US social-media network that had operated openly in the country. For more than 10 years, Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in China, and Google shut down its operations there in 2010.

Mr Mohak Shroff, the company’s senior vice president, wrote in an Oct 14 blog post that LinkedIn is “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.

Given this, we’ve made the decision to sunset the current localized version of LinkedIn, which is how people in China access LinkedIn’s global social media platform, later this year.”

In September, the China site had blocked the profiles of several US journalists, citing “prohibited content” The same had happened to certain researchers and academics on LinkedIn.

Among those blocked is Greg Bruno, author of a book on China’s treatment of refugees from Tibet. He commented on that he was “dismayed that an American tech company is caving into the demands of a foreign government”.

Censoring journalists and academics has been a “gross appeasement and an act of submission to Communist China”, US Senator Rick Scott wrote in a letter addressed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky.

Later this year, Microsoft will launch a job-board site specific to China. The new site, which the company announced on Thursday, (Oct 14) will not have the social media features of LinkedIn. Called InJobs, this jobs-only version will not allow its users to post or share articles, nor will it have a social media feed.

“Our new strategy for China is to put our focus on helping China-based professionals find jobs in China and Chinese companies find quality candidates. Later this year, we will launch InJobs, a new, standalone jobs application for China. InJobs will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles. We will also continue to work with Chinese businesses to help them create economic opportunity.

This decision aligns with our commitment to creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. While that has been our vision for nearly two decades now, it feels more important than ever as we all strive to build a global economy that delivers more prosperity and progress to people all over the world,” wrote Linkedin senior vice president Mohak Shroff on Oct 14. /TISG

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