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LinkedIn Pauses New Sign-Ups in China to Review Compliance

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(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp.’s professional networking site LinkedIn is pausing new member sign-ups for its service in China while it works to ensure it’s in compliance with local law.

“We’re a global platform with an obligation to respect the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

LinkedIn, which entered China in 2014, is one of the few U.S. social networking companies allowed in the country as it has agreed to restrict some content to adhere to state censorship rules. Currently, the service has 52 million users in Mainland China. Other social media platforms like Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have long been banned.

“Microsoft has a long torturous history in China,” said Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. He pointed to Microsoft’s long-running business in the country, and China’s antitrust probe against the company in 2014.

Read more about Microsoft’s history in China here.

The announcement comes a week after Microsoft said state-sponsored hackers based in China were behind a massive attack on its Microsoft Exchange Server product that has claimed at least 60,000 victims.

China may be signaling displeasure over Microsoft blaming the country for the attack, Segal said. “There could be compliance issues in how they’re registering people, but I haven’t seen any reporting in the Chinese press to suggest that there was something coming down the pike.”

In a statement, LinkedIn said the move isn’t related to the hack.

(Updates with outside comment in fourth paragraph.)

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