Microsoft’s LinkedIn censors US journalist on Chinese content, makes “disturbing offer” to reinstate


Tech company LinkedIn censored American journalist Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian’s profile in China, urging her to “update” the content without specifying what triggered the block.

Photo: @BethanyAllenEbr, via Twitter.

The social media platform, owned by US company Microsoft, told Axios reporter on Tuesday that his profile, comments and public activity “will not be visible in China.” They offered to work with Allen-Ebrahimian if she agreed to “update the Summary section” of her profile.

In response, Allen-Ebrahimian – who is currently writing a book on China – accused LinkedIn of offering a “free self-censorship counseling service”, calling it a “very disturbing” offer.

“They suggest that politically sensitive content be removed from MY END, which means it would be removed entirely from the internet, not just for the Chinese market. Total censorship, ”she said.

“It goes beyond the Chinese model of ‘internet sovereignty’ and enforces censorship of China extraterritorially … The only way to fight China’s censorship laws is to resort to law and action. of the government. Transparency and civil society action will not work.

LinkedIn began operating in China in 2014, with then-CEO Jeff Weiner saying the company should submit to government censorship “when and to the extent necessary.”

He promised that LinkedIn would be transparent about its transactions in China, although a spokesperson evaded questions from HKFP on Wednesday.

LinkedIn operations in China

In March, the New York Times reported that Chinese authorities had punished Microsoft for “objectionable political content” on the business-oriented social media network, forcing it to perform a self-assessment and submit a report to internet regulators. from the country. New registrations were suspended for 30 days, and Chinese academics, journalists and other observers increasingly had their profiles censored in China in the months that followed.

Photo: HKFP Remix.

LinkedIn – the only major American social network accessible in China – censored the profile of Swedish writer and photographer Jojje Olsson in June. His profile’s visibility in China was suspended due to “prohibited content” after mentioning the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 as an area of ​​study.

A survivor of the crackdown, pro-democracy activist Zhou Fengsuo, also found his profile censored in 2019. However, he was reinstated after a public outcry.

Eyck Freymann, doctoral student at Oxford University, China observer Bill Bishop, Stephen Nagy, scholar at Tokyo International Christian University, and Roie Yellinek from Israel’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies, are among d others who have had their profiles blocked in China.

When approached by HKFP, the company LinkedIn did not directly comment on what content was at fault on Allen-Ebrahimian’s account, or how the profiles are being censored. They also did not specify what content can be banned. However, a spokesperson said, “We are a global platform that abides by the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China. For members with limited profile visibility in China, their profiles are still visible in the rest of the world where LinkedIn is available.

LinkedIn did not say what Chinese law or regulation they obeyed.

According to its transparency report, LinkedIn denied two requests for government data from China between July 1, 2020 and December 2020. However, it complied with 16 of Beijing’s 18 data deletion requests in the first half of 2020. and 22 out of 24 applications in the second half of this year. In total, it complied with 89% of these requests. The report did not specify what content was removed.


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