The firm LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, censored the profile of American journalist Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian in China, inviting her to “update” her content to fit the requirements of the communist regime. It also offered “collaboration” for her profile to be approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
According to what the journalist herself posted on her Twitter account, the social media platform told her on Tuesday that her profile, comments and public activity “will not be visible in China.”
“I woke up this morning to discover that LinkedIn had blocked my profile in China. I used to have to wait for Chinese govt censors, or sensors employed by Chinese companies in China, to do this kind of thing. Now, a U.S. company is paying its own employees to censor Americans,” the journalist wrote in outrage.
In the publication is attached an image with the message sent by Linkedin with the brief arguments about censorship. There, the company also offers to work with Allen-Ebrahimian if she agrees to “update the Summary section” of her profile, which aroused further indignation in the journalist.
In response, Allen-Ebrahimian, who is currently writing a book about China’s communist regime, accused LinkedIn of offering a “free self-censorship consulting service,” calling it a “very disturbing offer.”
“We will work with you to minimize the impact and can review your profile’s accessibility within China if you update the Summary section of your profile,” LinkedIn wrote in its disclaimer.
The release invites her to collaborate in a self-censorship situation, given that if she were to modify the Summary section, she would not do so only for China, but it would be reflected in her general public profile.
“This goes beyond China’s ‘Internet sovereignty’ model and imposes China’s censorship extraterritorially,” Allen-Ebrahimian wrote about it.
The journalist then questioned how her profile was flagged or, more precisely, who initially flagged it—LinkedIn or the Chinese government?
Either case is extremely troubling, she argued. If it’s the former, it means the U.S. company is paying its employees to monitor the content of profiles deemed offensive to the Chinese regime. If it’s the latter, it means LinkedIn is working hand-in-hand with the CCP on censorship practices.
LinkedIn began operating in China in 2014, and then-CEO Jeff Weiner accepted that the Chinese regime enforced strict censorship rules and admitted that the company will have to submit to government controls “when and to the extent necessary.”
In March, the New York Times reported that Chinese authorities had penalized Microsoft for allowing “objectionable political content” on the social network, forcing it to conduct a self-assessment and submit a report to the country’s Internet regulators.
Axios journalist Jonathan Swan posted on his Twitter account this week in support of his colleague:
“U.S. company LinkedIn now works as a censor on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, blocking my Axios colleague’s profile because of her critical reporting on the CCP.”
“She is a diligent and ethical reporter and we are lucky to have her at Axios,” Swan added about his colleague.