LinkedIn is blocking the Chinese profiles of journalists and researchers over 'prohibited content' not approved by the government
- LinkedIn is taking down journalists' accounts in China over content that offends the government.
- LinkedIn didn't tell users any specifics about why their profiles were banned in the country.
- A company spokesperson said it has to adhere to Chinese laws to operate there.
LinkedIn is censoring profiles on its Chinese website of prominent journalists over "prohibited content" that is considered offensive to the country's ruling communist party.
The Microsoft-owned company sent emails to users - some of whom posted screenshots online - informing them that their profiles "will not be made viewable in China."
"While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China," LinkedIn told affected users, who confirmed the authenticity of the email to Insider.
-B. Allen-Ebrahimian (@BethanyAllenEbr) September 28, 2021
The bans represent the significant "soft power" China's government yields as corporations chase a financial necessity to expand into the lucrative market. That often means complying with local laws and customs by blocking specific content or editing out bits of media the party may find unfavorable.
A LinkedIn spokesperson told Insider that the company "respects the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China. For members whose profile visibility is limited within China, their profiles are still visible across the rest of the globe where LinkedIn is available."
Reporter Melissa Chan posted her email on Twitter, which said the offensive content was located in the Publications section of her profile.
Another journalist, Greg Bruno, posted his email on LinkedIn and was also not given any specifics. He told Insider that his book, "Blessings from Beijing: Inside China's Soft-Power war on Tibet," is listed on his profile and that "it seems clear that LinkedIn made the decision to choose profits over truth."
And Axios reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who reports on China, said LinkedIn told her her Summary section is where the offending content was housed.
China has subjected hundreds of thousands in the Uyghur minority to brutal forced labor in concentration camps, where they are forced to abandon their culture for Chinese customs. Human Rights Watch said the nation is committing "crimes against humanity." Beijing has said they're merely "reeducation centers."
And China has long contended that Tibet is part of the nation and has subjected rural Tibetans to similar treatment since 2016. As of late 2020, 15% of the Tibetan population was sent to harsh "military-style" training centers. The Party has characterized the practice as a way to fight poverty.
Bruno told Insider that he is "dismayed that an American tech company is caving to the demands of a government intent on controlling access to information." Bruno and Allen-Ebrahimian also speculated if the removals came from a LinkedIn algorithm or a direct order from China.
Allen-Ebrahimian said LinkedIn offered to review her profile after she updates it, but doing so would delete that content from her profile in every market, not just China's.
"LinkedIn appears to offer a free self-censorship consulting service," she wrote, later adding that she hasn't changed that section.
But she also pointed out that the company was merely doing what is standard in the business world by expanding into a new market and following the rules. LinkedIn acknowledged as much, according to the email Bruno posted.
"While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China," the email reads.
LinkedIn has done this sort of thing before, most recently in July, when it told a writer with expertise in Chinese politics to remove all mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a historical event that China strives to downplay.
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