Professional networking platform LinkedIn has reportedly been increasingly blocking content from users who post sensitive content about the country. Some of these users are graduate students and scholars. This comes after officials of the site were summoned by Chinese regulators in March to complain that they had failed to control political content. LinkedIn is the only major Western or American social-media company that operates freely in China.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, an Oxford student Eyck Freymann was informed by LinkedIn that his account has been blocked in China. He was informed that the 'experience' section of his profile contained 'prohibited' content. Although the site did not elaborate further, Freymann believes that they were referring to the words 'Tiananmen Square massacre' in his experience section. "LinkedIn is pulling people's material off without telling them why," he said, adding that he is just a graduate student and that he didn't think he mattered.
Roie Yellinek, a scholar at Israel's BESA Center for Strategic Studies believes that he was blocked because of his work in Hebrew on China's efforts to reshape its image in Israel.
The news site identified at least 10 people whose profiles have been blocked in recent weeks.
A LinkedIn spokeswoman said in a statement that the company supports freedom of expression. But offering a localised version of LinkedIn means adhering to the censorship requirements of the country. LinkedIn has not clarified if its actions were proactive or in response to requests from Chinese authorities.
Chinese authorities summoned LinkedIn officials in March to ask them to better regulate their content. It was given 30 days to clean up its content. Shortly after, LinkedIn said in a statement that it would pause new member sign-ins to ensure that they were in compliance with local law.
The networking site received 42 requests from Chinese authorities to take down content, as mentioned by the Journal. It took down 38 out of those.
The report said that when 'Tiananmen', 'Uyghur forced labor' or 'Hong Kong national security law' were searched by its team on the site, LinkedIn threw up only a handful of results and far fewer for Chinese members.
This censorship row comes after Microsoft's Bing search engine drew controversy for blocking the 'Tank Man' image, linked to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for its China and US users. The company said it was an 'accidental human error' and restored the image.
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