- Microsoft app LinkedIn has decided to shut down its services in China following strict Internet censorship policies.
- The move comes in response to increasing pressure from China to accept its censorship policies and the US criticizing the American company for bowing to a foreign government.
- The company promises to return to the Chinese market with a new app called InJobs by the end of the year.
On the 14th of October, 2021, LinkedIn senior vice president Mohak Shroff released a blog on the employment-oriented social media platform. In his blog post, Shroff revealed the firm’s decision to discontinue its services in China blaming challenging and strict operating conditions.
The dawn of LinkedIn’s struggle in China and troubles back home
It’s no secret that China has certain internet policies in place which allow the lawmakers to maintain strict control over the broadcasted content in the nation. In his blog post, Shroff alleges that such policies have created an inhospitable or rather challenging environment for the operation of LinkedIn in the country. Owing to a constant struggle between the freedom of expression and the iron hand of Chinese policies, Microsoft has decided to permanently shut down services for the social media platform at this juncture.
LinkedIn was markedly one of the last major western social media platforms operating in China. With its departure, Chinese netizens can add it to a long list of apps not functional in the country such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Gmail, Google, Youtube, and many more.
LinkedIn is essentially an American company that acts as an employment-based online service that allows professional networking and also permits users to seek jobs by posting their resumes while also integrating them with employers posting about job opportunities. It launched in China in 2014 hoping to tap the large market of the eligible population in the country. During its launch itself, LinkedIn had been vocal regarding its disagreement with the government censorship policies. However, it had agreed to duly comply with said policies and hence released a modified, local version of the app and website for its Chinese users.
The rift between the operative principles of the firm and the Chinese policies had appeared long before, ut the real trigger which forced the service to fold up occurred recently. LinkedIn had blacklisted several journalist accounts, including those of Melissa Chan and Greg Bruno, from its China-based local version website. This step came as a direct result of pressure from the Chinese government since said journalists were noted to proclaim revolutionary political views. Mr. Bruno was blamed for writing a book on the pathetic treatment of Tibetan refugees by China. Melissa Chan is a correspondent for Al-Jazeera who had been in China for 5 years and covered nearly 400 reports before her journalism visa was canceled by the government. This follows after she reports on black jails which are essentially detention centers in China where whistleblowers are held without legitimate charges.
In March, LinkedIn also suffered the wrath of the government for failing to censor triggering political content, resulting in a suspension of new user registration for 30 days as punishment. Other than such controversies, the platform has been alleged to be in use by Chinese intelligence agencies as a recruitment tool. The company has also suffered from increasing local competition and pressure due to non-compliance with regulations.
However, this wasn’t an end to the firm’s woes. Being an American firm, many Chinese journalists lashed out at LinkedIn for blindly complying with the demands of a foreign government. Soon enough the company faced fire at home. US senator Rick Scott accused the firm of acting in manners that suggested its submission to the communist ideals of China in his letter to LinkedIn chief executive Ryan Roslansky and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Hence, It’s hard to pinpoint whether LinkedIn’s move was driven by the pressure from China or that from the US. But the only certain emotion is the fact that China has managed to move further adrift from the global internet ecosystem.
The future of LinkedIn in China
Mohak Shroff confirmed that although the company will shut down its social media operations in China for the time being. In a letter to the platform’s users in China, President of LinkedIn China Lu Jian promises that the site will continue to connect global business opportunities. The company has decided that in approximately a year, they will launch an app called InJobs. This app will be a standalone job application connecting Chinese candidates and firms without the social media feed or the ability to share posts and articles.
China’s history of internet censorship
Despite being one of the biggest consumers of social media, the lawmakers of the country with the world’s largest population maintain strict censorship over the broadcasted content. The country has a policy known as Internet censorship in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in place to exercise this control over the internet. Owing to this controversial policy, any adverse political events are censored from news coverage. So Chinese citizens are barred from knowing about the actions of their government. Freedom of the press is also highly compromised. Such contradictory measures have earned this policy an apt nickname of “The Great Firewall of China”.
The country also has an Internet police force in place which takes action against defaulters of the stringent policies of the Government. The official state media notes that in 2013 2 million employees were working for this organization. China’s Internet censorship is a highly sophisticated operating system. The government blocks website content and monitors Internet access. The laws require major Internet content-creating websites and platforms to practice self-censorship habits. The country also outsources the implementation of its regulatory policies to state-owned companies. These companies use powerful artificial intelligence algorithms to support the internet police and remove illegal online content.
About 904 million people have access to the Internet in China However, in the words of Reporters Without Borders, this country is the world’s biggest prison for netizens. The police used complicated methods used to block websites and pages such as DNS spoofing, blocking access to IP addresses, and analyzing and filtering URLs. Amnesty International also notes that China has the largest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.