Surprising No One, LinkedIn for China Will Be Subject to Government Censorship

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 25 2014 3:48 PM

Surprising No One, LinkedIn for China Will Be Subject to Government Censorship

The Simplified Chinese version of Linkedin, 领英, is in beta testing right now.

Photo by LinkedIn China.

When you think about the Internet in China, free and open discourse probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Now, LinkedIn is confronting the Chinese government's censorship regulations while the company works to roll out the Simplified Chinese language version of LinkedIn “领英,” which is currently in beta. What's there to censor on LinkedIn? Apparently a bunch of things.

Lily Hay Newman Lily Hay Newman

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

LinkedIn's English-language site has been accesible in China for more than 10 years, so it already has about 4 million Chinese users who are affiliated with more than 80,000 companies.  LinkedIn China's president, Derek Shen, wrote in a blog post that:

We know many professionals in China and other parts of the world prefer to communicate in their native language, particularly in a business context, and so we are excited to introduce a beta version of LinkedIn in Simplified Chinese. This will make our services localized to more members in China, so they too can leverage LinkedIn to further enhance their economic circumstances.

OK, "further enhance their economic circumstances" sounds like a not-so-subtle way of saying that LinkedIn is currently baffled by the socioeconomic range and employment situation in China, but like Shen says, "we are actually in a start-up phase in the country right now."

Dealing with government censorship and regulation on a site that's supposed to be about user-generated content and communication sounds daunting. LinkedIn's CEO, Jeff Weiner, wrote in a blog post that LinkedIn China will use three guiding principles to handle the situation. First, the company will implement government restrictions, but only to meet minimum requirements. Second, LinkedIn China promises to be transparent and to notify users about their practices. Third, the company will take "extensive measures" to protect user data and rights to the extent that it can.

Of course these promises may or may not be kept in practice, but they give a sense of the values LinkedIn claims to have. In his blog post, Weiner wrote that:

LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship. At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn’s absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform, thereby limiting the ability of individual Chinese citizens to pursue and realize the economic opportunities, dreams and rights most important to them.

It's a laudable humanitarian mission to bring LinkedIn to China! Or, as TechCrunch points out, LinkedIn's growth is slowing and it's trying to add to its 277 million users. LinkedIn China will try to bring the country's 140 million professionals into the fold.

It's worth noting that even before the Simplified Chinese site, LinkedIn was one of the only U.S.-based social networks that the Chinese government allowed access to in China. Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare are all blocked, among others. It seems that LinkedIn was blocked for a day in February 2011, though there was never an official government statement about it, because the government was concerned that information about pro-democracy protests were spreading too quickly, inspired by action contributing to the Arab Spring. But the site was back the next day. Get ready, LinkedIn China, this is about to be your life.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.