LinkedIn blocked the accounts of several American journalists on Monday, citing what the company called “prohibited content” in their profiles.
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, the China reporter for Axios, announced on Twitter that her profile had been blocked in China, although it remains visible outside of the country. LinkedIn did not tell users exactly what content on their profiles merited the blocking.
Allen-Ebrahimian noted that LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, is one of the only American social media companies that comply with Chinese government censorship demands.
“While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China,” LinkedIn told affected users, according to Business Insider.
Journalist Greg Bruno, who wrote a book on Chinese “soft power” in Tibet, said his profile was banned in China. Reporter Melissa Chan also said her profile was blocked, noting that the ban may be due to her essay on Uyghurs in exile in The Atlantic, or an essay on democracy she wrote for the Thomas Mann House.
“A U.S. company is paying its own employees to censor Americans,” Allen-Ebrahimian wrote as part of a tweet thread. “Welcome to the world of ‘internet sovereignty!’”
Allen-Ebrahimian commented that perhaps LinkedIn should not take the full share of blame for blocking certain users in China.
“LinkedIn is acting rationally according to the rules that American society (and western society in general) has conditioned it to act: Seek out emerging markets, maximize profit, don’t break the law.” Allen-Ebrahimian wrote. “To now blame it for following the playbook that our own society created is not fair. But it’s easier to say LinkedIn has a moral problem, than to say that perhaps the entire playbook our society created is the source of the problem.”
To now blame it for following the playbook that our own society created is not fair. But it’s easier to say LinkedIn has a moral problem, than to say that perhaps the entire playbook our society created is the source of the problem.
— B. Allen-Ebrahimian (@BethanyAllenEbr) September 28, 2021