As Beijing tightens internet rules, Microsoft will shut down its main LinkedIn service for China in the coming months.
In a blog post Thursday,the company stated that it had faced "significantly more difficult operating environments and higher compliance requirements in China."
Microsoft is the latest American tech company to cut ties with the country. This comes after years of tailoring its services to government requirements.
LinkedIn announced that it will replace its Chinese-based platform with InJobs, which will have some of LinkedIn's career networking features, but no social feed or ability to share posts and articles.
Chinese regulators are intensifying their crackdown on internet industry, seeking greater control over algorithms used by tech companies to personalize and recommend content. They also increased control over information flow and tightened data privacy restrictions.
LinkedIn sent warning letters to several scholars this summer advising them that they were sharing prohibited content that could not be viewed in China, but that can still be seen by LinkedIn users around the world.
Tony Lee, a Berlin scholar, said that LinkedIn did not tell him what content was banned, but it linked to the section of his profile in which he listed his publications. One article he listed was about 1989's crackdown on Beijing's pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. Another compared Xi Jinping to Mao Zedong.
LinkedIn launched its simplified Chinese site seven years ago to expand its reach within China. At the time of its launch in early 2014, LinkedIn stated that expanding in China was difficult because it required censoring material. However, it promised that it would be transparent about its business and take "extensive steps" to protect member's rights and data.
Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016, based in Redmond (Washington). LinkedIn does not disclose how much of its revenue is from China. However, it reported that it has more than 54,000,000 members in China, which is its third largest user base after India and the U.S.
Eyck Freymann, another scholar, said that LinkedIn once played a critical role as the only social network where Chinese and Western colleagues could communicate without being subject to (Chinese Communist Party's) censorship or prying eyes. He sent a text message on Thursday, stating that he had received a censorship notice.
Freymann is a doctoral student at Oxford University in China Studies. He said that it was "shameful" that Microsoft spent months censoring its users and even pressuring them to self-censor. However, the company eventually made the right decision to end the practice.
After the Chinese government started censoring YouTube videos and search results, Google removed its search engine from mainland China. Later, it considered launching a Chinese-language search engine called Project Dragonfly. However, the idea was dropped by internal protests in 2018.
China blocks other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, that are based in the United States.