The company points to “challenging conditions” in the country. Critics have long pointed out that LinkedIn uses censorship to pander to authorities in Beijing. According to China correspondent Roland Smid, the shutdown spells the temporary end of foreign social media in China.
“And that’s a shame,” he says, because LinkedIn played a unique role in the country. Apps like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have already been blocked, but Chinese users can still post, comment and view profiles on LinkedIn. So that will come to an end.
According to Smid, the company had no other choice: “It has received strong criticism lately. LinkedIn censored profiles of journalists and academics. For example, you could not put on your profile that you had investigated human rights violations in China in the past.” LinkedIn would then block her profile for Chinese users so she would no longer be visible to them here.”
That although the company itself says that it supports freedom of expression. LinkedIn has been operating in China for seven years, with a local platform that must comply with local laws, such as censorship. Earlier this year, the Chinese government already urged better “enforcement” of sensitive information.
Chinese social networks have also been treated more strictly in recent years. For example, companies like Tencent and Alibaba have been fined and must meet stricter requirements for data collection.
successful for a long time
Microsoft-owned LinkedIn has long been successful in China due to its compliance with local regulations. Vincent Brussee, China digital media regulation analyst for German think tank Merics, notes that the company is disabling certain features in order for Chinese users to comply with the rules. “You can’t post videos, create groups, or add attachments in China. Also, some users become completely invisible.”
Another reason for its success, according to Brussee, is that LinkedIn has continued to fly under the censorship radar for a long time, because the platform doesn’t naturally lend itself to topics that cause social unrest. “It’s a career platform.”
However, LinkedIn concluded that it could no longer live with censorship. Brussee: “Every company, sooner or later, finds itself in a split: bow to Chinese rules or leave China? LinkedIn did well for a long time, but at a certain point the criticism becomes too much.”
LinkedIn says it is working on a new vacancy platform, especially for China, without social media features. In this way, the company can continue to operate in the country, without too strict censorship.
western countries blocked
According to Smid, the announcement fits with a trend that makes it difficult for Chinese to communicate online with foreign countries: “All other Western social networks are blocked, so if you want to go to Facebook in China, for example, you need special software that allows you to bypass online blocking, and not everyone has that.
According to Smid, LinkedIn was one of the last online bridges between China and the world. “And that bridge has now been demolished.”
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