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This article is more than 7 month old.

LinkedIn China takes down profiles of academics for ‘prohibited’ content: Know more

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Microsoft-owned platform is the only American social media giant allowed to operate freely in China.

LinkedIn China takes down profiles of academics for ‘prohibited’ content: Know more
Microsoft-owned social networking platform LinkedIn in the past few weeks blocked several posts and profiles of scholars and academicians, in line with Chinese government’s censorship requirements, citing "prohibited" content. These profiles and posts aren’t visible in China.
Scholars say LinkedIn has taken the step without informing them.
Academician Stephen Nagy from Tokyo’s International Christian University, who has been blocked, linked the clampdown to the ruling Communist Party’s upcoming centennial celebrations next week. China continues to censor human rights activists and the authorities delete content of posts they deem to be detrimental, sensitive or against the government, Nagy told The Wall Stree Street Journal.
Likely Reasons Behind Move
LinkedIn said they had received 42 requests from Chinese authorities last year, out of which 38 profiles have been taken down. This is the highest number of requests received globally, according to its semi-annual transparency reports.
The social networking site has written to the blocked users, saying their accounts can be restored if the users update the “prohibited” content, while not going into details.
The blocked users are researchers from Jerusalem and Tokyo, journalists, a US congressional staffer and a Beijing based editor. An article from The Wall Street Journal has identified 10 more such individuals who have been blocked since May.
Tony C. Lee, professor at Freie Universität, Berlin, said, “It’s astonishing LinkedIn complies with China’s censorship policy yet is unable to justify its acts to its users."  Lee was blocked on June 17 and suspects he was blocked as he had written two papers about China’s leadership. One of the papers compared President Xi Jinping with Mao Zedong.
LinkedIn wrote to Swedish writer and photographer Jojje Olsson, saying his profile, comments and posts would “not be made viewable in China.” Olsson had included a one-line mention of his university thesis on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in the ‘Education’ section of his profile. Olsson posted his comments and the notice on Twitter.
J. Michael Cole, a senior fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington DC and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, suspects his listed titles of books he had authored or co-authored, including, How China Undermines Global Democracy, Cross-Strait Relations Since 2016: The End of the Illusion, and Convergence or Conflict in the Taiwan Strait led to his account being blocked.
Manfred Elfstorm, assistant professor, UBC’s Okanagan campus, tweeted, “Did not think I had anything exceptionally politically sensitive in there."
The WSJ’s report said Eyck Freymann, an Oxford University doctoral student, got a message saying his account is blocked in China, citing that the ‘Experience’ section in his profile contains “prohibited” content. He suspects his mentioning of the “Tiananmen Square massacre” in the entry for his two-year stint as a research assistant for a book in 2015 resulted in this block.
Search Results Blocked
In addition to profiles and posts, searches too have been blocked. The Wall Street Journal got a few results only after they had searched Tiananmen, Uyghur forced labour, or Hong Kong national security law, in LinkedIn for their Chinese members.
Even Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, made available in China, got into hot waters when it had to block the iconic ‘Tank Man’ image not only in China but in the US too. The image was restored quickly, prompting the company to blame it as an "accidental human error."
LinkedIn Policy
Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s chief executive, pledged to only implement government restrictions "when and to the extent required" when the company forayed into China in 2014. He also said the company would be transparent about its business operations.
LinkedIn, with more than 750 million members, is the only Western-based social media company allowed to operate freely in China. A LinkedIn spokeswoman in a statement said while the company supports freedom of expression, offering a localised version of LinkedIn in China means adherence to censorship requirements of the Chinese government on internet platforms.
The WSJ wrote that the company did not respond to queries on whether it was their decision to block profiles and posts or it followed a nudge from the Chinese authorities.
The WSJ further reported that Chinese officials from the internet regulator had summoned LinkedIn officials in March and warned them to regulate the content that is posted. Given a deadline of 30 days, LinkedIn got into action and was asked to promise better content regulations.
The Dilemma
Foreign companies having a presence in China are in a quandary -- whether to agree to their terms or risk getting shut down by one of the world’s largest markets.
But if they accept Chinese censorship, the backlash they would receive in their home countries from both politicians and users could have a bigger impact on their fortunes.
 
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