Social media platform LinkedIn will shut off its main services in China and revert to being a simple job posting board as local internet regulators crack down on material that offends strict censorship rules.
In a blog post, LinkedIn’s Senior VP of Engineering, Mohak Shroff said LinkedIn was “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China” which has driven the company out of that market.
“Given this, we’ve made the decision to sunset the current localised version of LinkedIn, which is how people in China access LinkedIn’s global social media platform, later this year.”
LinkedIn will instead offer a more basic jobs board for Chinese users, called InJobs, which won’t have a news feed or the ability to share content with other users.
“This decision aligns with our commitment to creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce,” Shroff said.
It’s a significant turnaround for LinkedIn which launched a localised Chinese site in 2014.
Back then, the company – which was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 – recognised the difficulties inherent in operating in China, especially when it comes to internet censorship.
At the time, LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner said the company “strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship” but that the lack of a US careers-based social media platform was “limiting the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realise the economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to them”.
Importantly, the country’s large potential userbase – Weiner’s 2014 figure was “140 million professionals” – had also been a large untapped revenue source for LinkedIn.
LinkedIn offered three guiding principles for its dealings in China, saying it would ”protect the rights and data of our members,” be transparent about its business dealings in China, and follow the state’s strict content regulation policies “only when and to the extent required”.
Those principles were put to the test earlier this year when the Cyberspace Administration of China took aim at LinkedIn’s executives for its inability to limit the spread of politically charged content on the platform.
Sources told the New York Times the offending content had been found on LinkedIn during the National People’s Congress and led China’s internet regulator to admonish LinkedIn, requiring it to submit a report and pause the registration of Chinese accounts.
“While we remain focused on our goal of creating economic opportunity for our members in China, we're temporarily pausing new member sign-ups for LinkedIn China as we work to ensure we remain in compliance with local law,” LinkedIn said in March.
The difficulties working with China’s strict internet control laws clearly became too much for LinkedIn in the end, as its seven-year long experiment has largely been scaled back.
But Microsoft’s social media company isn’t the only one struggling with Chinese internet regulators.
Last weekend, Apple took down a popular Quran app that was reportedly had one million users in China.
The company behind the Quran Majeed app told the BBC it was taken down because “it includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities”.
“We are trying to get in touch with the Cyberspace Administration of China and relevant Chinese authorities to get this issue resolved,” the app maker said.
China has been accused of human rights violations over its treatments of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.