Microsoft Folds LinkedIn Social-Media Service in China

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LinkedIn cites challenging operating environment as retreat is biggest departure from China by a major tech company in years

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In March, China’s internet regulator asked LinkedIn officials to better regulate its content and gave them 30 days to do so, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent months, LinkedIn informed several China-focused human rights activists, academics and journalists that their profiles were being blocked in China, saying they contained prohibited content.

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LinkedIn said it would replace its Chinese service, which restricts certain content, to comply with local government demands that the job-board service lacks social-media features, such as opinion and news sharing. capacity of.

LinkedIn’s exit is the latest chapter in the struggle Western Internet companies have faced operating in China, which has some of the world’s most stringent censorship rules. Twitter Inc.

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and facebook Inc. NS

The platforms have been blocked since 2009. Alphabet Inc. NS

Google quit in 2010 after refusing to censor results on its search engine. Chat messenger app Signal and audio discussion app Clubhouse were also blocked this year.

Knowledgeable Internet users in China can still access these Western services using workarounds such as virtual private networks or VPNs, but not many people use them.

LinkedIn entered China in 2014 after making rare concessions to comply with local censorship rules. Microsoft agreed to buy the platform two years later. In 2014, then-LinkedIn boss Jeff Weiner said the company supported freedom of expression, while offering a local version of its service in China meant complying with local censorship requirements—a view the company has reiterated.

In Thursday’s statement, LinkedIn said after seven years of operations in China it “didn’t have the same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed.”

Microsoft has had a difficult relationship with China, where it fought for years against software piracy.

Earlier this year, the software giant said that a Chinese hacking group thought backing the government was targeting a previously unknown security flaw in an email product used by businesses. Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which is also available in China, sparked controversy earlier this year when it used the iconic “Tank Man” image linked to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre not only in China, but for its US users. also blocked. The company blamed “accidental human error” and restored the image.

LinkedIn was one of Microsoft’s few bright spots in China, with more than 50 million users in the country. Nevertheless, the platform came under greater scrutiny from regulators this year. In May, Microsoft was the only foreign firm among 105 apps called by China’s internet regulator for “improper data collection” with both LinkedIn and Bing on the list.

Microsoft President Brad Smith told reporters in September that China’s technology accounts for less than 2% of the company’s revenue, and that percentage has been declining for the past few years.

Stu Woo at [email protected] and Liza Lynn at [email protected]

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