LinkedIn Kowtows to Communist China by Creating Spin-Off That Will Stifle Speech

The Microsoft-owned company has a history of cooperating with Chinese officials

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and then-Chinese premier Li Keqiang in 2017 (Thomas Peter/AFP via Getty Images)
October 14, 2021

LinkedIn announced Thursday that it is shuttering its platform in China as it struggles to comply with the Communist Party's censorship rules. Instead, the Microsoft-owned company will launch a site where users cannot freely communicate.

The new platform, InJobs, will launch later this year and will not contain any social media features. Users will not be allowed to share posts or articles. The move comes as China demands increased censorship from social media companies as part of an effort to control the nation's tech sector. LinkedIn, which has a history of cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party, is "facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China," according to a statement on its corporate blog.

LinkedIn and its parent company Microsoft have regularly complied with the Chinese Communist Party in order to do business in the country. LinkedIn, the only U.S. social network operating in China, shut down the Chinese accounts users who criticized the regime or used forbidden phrases like "Tiananmen Square." In September, Axios reporter Beth Allen-Ebrahimian said her account had been censored in China, along with those of other China researchers and reporters.

In March, LinkedIn announced it would be pausing sign-ups indefinitely in China to "remain in compliance with local law." Regulators had demanded the company enact stricter speech restrictions within 30 days. LinkedIn executives were required to perform a "self-evaluation" for China’s internet regulatory body.

LinkedIn alluded to its troubles with censorship in its statement. "While we've found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed." LinkedIn has also allowed Chinese firms to buy a partial stake in its Chinese platform.

Microsoft has worked closely with the Chinese Communist Party, even after China hacked hundreds of thousands of Microsoft email servers in March 2021. Microsoft CEO Brad Smith last month met with a top regulator at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to discuss expanding his work in China. Smith also defended Chinese company Huawei from criticism. And LinkedIn has expanded the data centers that support its facial recognition tools in China.

Even as his company deepens its ties with China, Microsoft’s top scientist this year reported to Congress that "China's domestic use of AI is a chilling precedent for anyone around the world who cherishes individual liberty."

When it first launched in China in 2014, LinkedIn promised that it "will be transparent about how it conducts business in China and will use multiple avenues to notify members about our practices."