Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Microsoft says it will shut down its main LinkedIn service in China later this year after Internet rules were tightened by Beijing, the latest US tech giant, which diminished its ties to the country.

The company said in a blog post that it has faced a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China”.

LinkedIn will replace its localized platform in China with a new app called InJobs, which has some of LinkedIn’s career networking features but “will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles”.

In March, LinkedIn said it would stop new member registrations on LinkedIn China due to unspecified regulatory issues.

China’s Internet watchdog said in May that it had found LinkedIn – as well as Microsoft’s Bing search engine and about 100 other apps – involved in incorrect collection and use of data and ordered them to fix the problem.

Several researchers this year also reported that they received warning letters from LinkedIn that they shared “prohibited content” that would not be made visible in China but could still be seen by LinkedIn users elsewhere.

Tony Lee, a researcher at Berlin’s Free University, told the AP in June that LinkedIn did not tell him what content was banned, but said it was linked to the section of his profile where he listed his publications.

Among his articles listed were one about the 1989 attack on protesters against democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and another that compared Chinese leader Xi Jinping to former leader Mao Zedong.

Lee said it was “wishful thinking for LinkedIn to maintain its presence in another form” without social media, its distinctive selling point against other online job boards.

He said LinkedIn was better at pulling out of the country altogether than “practicing censorship dictated by China,” which damaged the company’s global credibility.

It is more than seven years since LinkedIn launched a site in Simplified Chinese, the written characters used on the mainland to expand its reach in the country.

LinkedIn said at the time of its launch in early 2014 that expansion in China raised “difficult issues” because it would be required to censor content, but that it would be clear about how it did business in China and conducted “extensive measures “to protect the rights and data of members.

Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016. LinkedIn does not disclose how much of its revenue comes from China, but it reports having more than 54 million members on the Chinese mainland, its third-largest user base after the United States and India.

A doctoral student in China studying at Oxford University, Eyck Freymann, in a text message on Thursday that he had also received a censorship notice this year.

“LinkedIn once served a crucial role as the only social media network that Chinese and Western colleagues could communicate away from. [Chinese Communist Party] censorship and curious eyes, ”he said.

Freymann said it was “shameful that Microsoft spent months censoring its own users — and even worse, pressuring them to self-censor,” but that the company ultimately made the right choice to unplug.

Google pulled its search engine out of China in 2010 after the government began censoring search results and videos on YouTube.

It later considered launching a censored Chinese search engine nicknamed Project Dragonfly, but dropped the idea after internal protests in 2018.

Other US-based social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in China.

Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing, was temporarily blocked in China in early 2019, prompting company president Brad Smith to reveal that executives sometimes have difficult negotiations with the Chinese government over censorship and other demands.

“We understand that we do not have the same legal freedom that we have in other countries, but at the same time we hold on to our weapons,” Smith told Fox Business News in January 2019.

“There are certain principles that we think are important to stand up for, and we will sometimes go into the negotiating room, and the negotiations are sometimes quite direct.”

AP

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