Microsoft to shut down LinkedIn China, citing “difficult” climate

Microsoft Corp. LinkedIn is closing a localized version of its professional networking platform in China, becoming the last major U.S. social media provider to pull out of the country and marking the demise of a rare U.S. tech success there.

LinkedIn said it made the decision in light of “a significantly tougher operating environment and stricter compliance requirements in China.” The company will shut down the current version later this year, LinkedIn said in a blog post on Thursday.

After entering China in 2014, LinkedIn appeared to offer a model for American internet companies in the country. In exchange for permission to operate, the company agreed to restrict certain content to comply with state censorship rules. The service had around 52 million users in mainland China. Other US-based social media platforms, such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., have long been banned.

Signs of turmoil for Microsoft emerged in March. LinkedIn said then that it had suspended registrations for new members in China while it worked to ensure compliance with local laws. Earlier this month, China’s internet regulator berated LinkedIn executives for failing to monitor political content, according to the New York Times.

In May, a prominent UK-based China critic said LinkedIn had frozen his account and removed content critical of the country’s government, the latest in a series of allegations the networking website censored users – even outside the Asian nation – to appease the authorities. In Beijing.

LinkedIn’s increased regulatory oversight in China echoes a wider crackdown on tech companies in the country. The government has stepped up oversight of its largest tech companies, including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Didi Global Inc., seeking to reduce their growing influence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on authorities to step up antitrust work to ensure fair competition, as part of his broader vision of achieving “common prosperity” and leveling the inequalities that have soared in recent years. decades. Curbing tech companies has been seen as a crucial part of these efforts, given the power and knowledge accumulated by Alibaba and Tencent, among others, in the world’s largest internet industry.

Even Apple Inc., which has managed to navigate China’s regulatory system to produce and sell the company’s devices, faces increased pressure. China’s highest court last month effectively granted consumers the right to sue Apple for alleged abuse of market power – a setback for a company.

LinkedIn said its new strategy for China will be to help local professionals find jobs in the country and Chinese companies find quality candidates. Later this year, the company announced it would launch InJobs, a new standalone employment app for the country. The site will not include social feeds or the ability to share posts or articles.

LinkedIn, which entered the Chinese market as Lingying, was the only US social media network licensed to operate in the country. To do so, it complied with government restrictions on certain types of content for users in China. Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016.

Microsoft’s decades in China have been fraught with challenges, as well as rare successes. The company has a large research lab in Beijing, sells cloud services through joint ventures with Chinese companies, and was the first to market a video game console in the country. Yet Microsoft has struggled to generate a significant volume of sales in China and has faced government investigations. The company has also been caught up in trade tensions between the United States and China, notably over its partner Huawei Technologies Co.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google abandoned plans in 2020 to offer a major new cloud service in China and other politically sensitive countries. The company stopped offering search, Gmail, and the Chrome browser in mainland China years ago. Facebook has allowed advertisers to target users in mainland China, but the company’s social media app is banned there.

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