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LinkedIn China Blocks Academic Researcher Accounts: WSJ

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The Wall Street Journal identified at least ten individuals who had their profiles blocked or posts removed from the China version of Microsoft Corp’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) LinkedIn since May as the nation’s domestic internet firm crackdown gained steam.

What Happened: The blocked profiles included researchers in Jerusalem and Tokyo, journalists, a U.S. congressional staffer, and an editor based in Beijing who posted state media reports about elephants rampaging across China.

LinkedIn is the only major Western social-media company that operates freely in China.

A LinkedIn spokeswoman acknowledged that LinkedIn supports freedom of expression and the localized version of LinkedIn in China implied adherence to censorship requirements of the Chinese government on internet platforms.

LinkedIn accepted Chinese censorship when it entered China in 2014. It had typically censored human-rights activists and deleted content focused on posts deemed sensitive to the Chinese government.

Oxford University doctoral student Eyck Freymann’s account was blocked. LinkedIn informed that the “Experience” section contained prohibited content. The “Tiananmen Square massacre” in his two-year research assistant for a book in 2015 led to the decision as per Freymann.

Tony C. Lee, a professor at Freie Universität Berlin, was blocked due to problematic content in the “Publications” section.

Lee’s two papers on China’s leadership, including comparing the current President Xi Jinping with Mao Zedong, led to the action as per Lee.

Tokyo’s International Christian University academic Stephen Nagy’s profile was hidden in China in June by LinkedIn, citing prohibited content.

Israel’s BESA Center for Strategic Studies scholar Roie Yellinek believed his work in Hebrew about China’s efforts to shape the country’s public image in Israel led to his blocking.

Why It Matters: Microsoft’s Bing search engine blocked the iconic “Tank Man” image linked to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China and U.S. The company blamed it on accidental human error and restored the image.

China’s internet regulator summoned LinkedIn officials in March and gave them a month to clean up the content. LinkedIn also promised to regulate its site better.

Shortly after, LinkedIn announced pausing new member sign-ups as the platform to ensure local law compliance.

Chinese authorities made 42 requests in 2020 to remove content. LinkedIn had pulled 38 out of them.

LinkedIn also assured to unblock users once they updated the prohibited content without explaining much.

Price action: MSFT shares traded higher by 1.03% at $265.33 on the last check Tuesday.

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