Claiming that complying with the Chinese government has become increasingly difficult, Microsoft has decided to shut down its LinkedIn social network services in China. This decision was taken after some journalists’ profiles were blocked from the career-networking site which was severely criticised
InJobs, a jobs-only version of the site, bill ne launched by Linked later this year. But that platform will not have any social feed or the ability to share or post articles.
“We’re facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China,” said LinkedIn senior vice president Mohak Shroff in a blog post.
“While we are going to sunset the localised version of LinkedIn in China later this year, we will continue to have a strong presence in China to drive our new strategy and are excited to launch the new InJobs app later this year,” the company said about its decision in a separate statement.
Within China, LinkedIn had been the only major Western social media platform that was operational. Linked had agreed to comply with the Chinese government’s requirements so that it could operate there when it was launched in the country in 2014. At the same time the company had also pledged to be transparent about the process and the manner in which its does business in China and said that it did not agree with the policy of censorship of the Chinese government.
Accounts of a number of journalists were recently blacklisted and locked by LinkedIn from its China-based website which included accounts of Melissa Chan and Greg Bruno.
Bruno is known as a journalist who has written a book about treatment of Tibetan refugees by China and said in an interview to Verdict that the Chinese Communist Party’s actions had not surprised him but he was “dismayed that an American tech company is caving in to the demands of a foreign government.”
In a letter to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, United States senator Rick Scott described the move by the company as “gross appeasement and an act of submission to Communist China.”
It’s difficult to accurately say whether the decision of LinkedIn to block the accounts of the journalists was influenced by Chinese or US pressure. The company could have been pressurised by both the parties – with the Chinese government having recently started to strictly regulate the internet in China while LinkedIn has been criticised in the US for cowing down to the censorship regulations of Beijing.
With the target of capitalising on the country’s massive market, a Chinese version of the platform was launched in China by LinkedIn in 2014. However, competition from domestic firms had made it difficult for the platform to achieve its targets in China while it has also faced regulatory issues after operating there for seven years now.
The Chinese regulator had reportedly punished LinkedIn in March for allegedly not being able to censor political content that resulted in a 30-day suspension of registration of new users. The platform has been used as a recruitment tool by Chinese intelligence agencies, apart from the censorship controversy.
President of LinkedIn China Lu Jian wrote a letter to the platform’s Chinese users today, promising that the site will continue to “connect global business opportunities.”
The shutdown of LinkedIn in China, on the other hand, demonstrates the polar opposite trend. The country’s tightly controlled internet has become increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, making it more difficult for international companies doing business in China to connect and bridge the gap.
(Adapted from BBC.com)