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October 17, 2021

LinkedIn leaves China

If you were to use the ever-cheerful language of the platform it owns, you could say that Microsoft is “energeticly looking for new and exciting opportunities” — just not in China. The software giant decided on Thursday to pull its professional networking site LinkedIn out of the country, making it the last major US social network to leave China amid a crackdown on online expression.

In a declaration Mohak Shroff, LinkedIn’s senior vice president of engineering, cited “a significantly more challenging work environment and increased compliance requirements” in China as the driving force behind the move.

LinkedIn follows Facebook and Twitter (both blocked since 2009) out of the country as the Chinese online regulator forces the choice between playing ball with Beijing or leaving altogether to avoid the hassle. Increasingly harsh sentences, including jail time, for internet users who post critical comments about the Chinese government have made doing business particularly difficult for the social network.

LinkedIn’s problems in China came to the fore in March, when it paused new Chinese signups and was given 30 days from the Chinese internet regulator to further monitor content on its platform. The pressure prompted LinkedIn to block viewing the profiles of various activists and academics in China, whether they were residents or not.

It’s not the end for Microsoft in China. It still makes widely used software, and the search engine Bing is still available in a country where Google isn’t. Even LinkedIn in China won’t go completely dark as the company plans to turn into a pure jobs board and remove all features that could conflict with Chinese regulators.

The episode reflects the ways the West and China continue to diverge on the previously shared space of the World Wide Web. China has even begun to push for its own version of the Internet. The infrastructure developed by Huawei, called New IP, allows for more government control than today’s more freewheeling Internet, with the ability to restrict individual users at will.

As LinkedIn leaves China, US hysteria over China’s TikTok app appears to have abated, a year after a threat to ban it under then-President Donald Trump. However, opposition to the app may resurface after President Joe Biden gave government agencies 180 days in June to assess and report on national security risks associated with foreign-owned apps.

Source: foreign policy

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