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LinkedIn hiding profiles of foreign journalists for China

Gasia Ohanes
September 30, 2021

An apparent censorship spree carried out on LinkedIn's China service has targeted journalists and researchers who have published works critical of Beijing.

LinkedIn's China Service website
This is not the first time LinkedIn has censored users within China.Image: HPIC/dpa/picture alliance

LinkedIn is restricting the profiles of US journalists and academics from the company’s Chinese site, affected users have said. 

The US-headquartered company cited "prohibited content" in messages sent to the users, informing them that their profiles "will not be made viewable in China." 

Rights watchdogs blasted the professional networking service for carrying out censorship on behalf of China.

Profile activities hidden in China

DW journalist Melissa Chan said she had received a message from LinkedIn telling her that her profile would no longer be displayed in China.

The message cited material that she had shared in her publications section as the reason for the restriction. Chan said she was not sure what exactly had triggered the incident, saying it could have been an article about Uyghurs in exile, or an essay on democracy.

Axios China-focused reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian said she, too, had received a message from LinkedIn notifying her that her business profile would be "blocked in China."

Allen-Ebrahimian shared a screenshot of the message on Twitter, rebuking the platform for "paying its own employees to censor Americans."

"Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of how you present your professional self to the world," the message said. "That's why we believe it's important to inform you that due to the presence of prohibited content ... your profile and your public activity, such as your comments and items you share with your network, will not be made viewable in China," 

LinkedIn offered to "work" with the journalist "to minimize the impact" and review her account if she makes changes to her profile. "But the decision whether to update your profile is yours," the message said.

"Did LinkedIn specify what content on my profile was objectionable? No," Allen-Ebrahimian has said, adding that she would not change her profile.

Other LinkedIn users have also been hit with similar restrictions. 

What type of content is LinkedIn targeting?

LinkedIn did not respond to DW's request for comment in time for publication. But the message journalist Greg Bruno received offered more insight on the type of content LinkedIn now considers "prohibited."

Bruno said the letter he received specifically mentioned the "Publications" section on his profile. "I've only got one listed: my book," the author said.

Bruno's book, Blessings From Beijing, documents China's soft- and sharp-power war on Tibetan refugees.

LinkedIn has been available in China since 2014. Its Chinese service has 45 million users, while other big social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are blocked in the country for refusing to enforce China's political censorship.

Pen America, a US organization that advocates for free speech, accused the tech company of blatantly censoring users for Beijing.

"It’s hard to conceive of any explanation for this action other than an American tech firm censoring its users at the apparent behest of the Chinese government," the organization's CEO, Suzanne Nossel, said in a statement.