LinkedIn pulls back in China, launches new job application service

15 Oct 2021

Image: © Sundry Photography/Stock.adobe.com

Citing an increasingly challenging regulatory environment, LinkedIn said it was pulling the plug on its service in China after seven years.

When LinkedIn first entered the Chinese market in 2014, it was one of the only major US tech companies that was willing to abide by China’s strict censorship laws. Seven years later, it’s shutting down the Chinese version of LinkedIn.

The social media giant for professionals announced yesterday (14 October) that it is pulling the plug on its service in China because of a “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements” in the Asian nation.

Future Human

In a blog, senior VP of engineering Mohak Shroff said that the localised version of LinkedIn for China has helped users find jobs, share content and stay informed. The New York Times reports that the platform attracted 54m professionals.

“While we’ve found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed,” Shroff said.

The localised version of the network gives Chinese professionals access to the global community – but some content is censored by the government.

The Microsoft-owned company is now planning to launch a stripped-back platform called InJobs that will help Chinese professionals find jobs in the country, but without traditional LinkedIn features such as a social feed or the ability to write posts and share content.

Beijing’s internet crackdown

The Chinese government has been increasing regulatory pressure on tech companies to abide by its strict guidelines and even promote socialist ideals on their platforms. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, major tech companies have clashed with the government over a new data law.

In March, LinkedIn had to pause new sign-ups on its platform in China to comply with local laws. China’s top regulator warned LinkedIn to regulate its content better and gave it a 30-day deadline, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Scholars and journalists with accounts on the platform that hosted ‘prohibited content’ were also targeted by the government and their accounts were reportedly shut down without further justification.

US social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been banned in China since 2009, while Google pulled out of the country in 2010 after it was asked to censor content on its search engine. Earlier this year, Clubhouse was added to the list.

InJobs is seen as Microsoft’s strategy to pull out of a tough regulatory environment while also retaining a presence in one of its largest markets.

“This decision aligns with our commitment to creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce,” Shroff said of the decision to pull the plug on LinkedIn’s social platform and launch InJobs later this year.

“While that has been our vision for nearly two decades now, it feels more important than ever as we all strive to build a global economy that delivers more prosperity and progress to people all over the world.”

Updated, 4.35pm, 15 October 2021: A previous headline on this article said ‘LinkedIn pulls out of China’. It was updated to clarify that the company is not leaving the market completely.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com