Microsoft is shutting down its social network, LinkedIn, in China due to a lack of compliance with Chinese government regulations.
Mohak Shroff, LinkedIn’s senior vice president, blogged, “We face an increasingly challenging operating environment and increased compliance requirements in China.”
According to LinkedIn, while its Chinese version will shut down later this year, the company intends to drive its new strategy from China with the new InJobs app later this year.
LinkedIn had been the only major Western social media platform operating in China.
The company agreed to comply with Chinese government requirements when it launched in the country in 2014. Although LinkedIn promised business transparency, it reportedly disagreed with the government’s censorship measures.
A few journalists, including Melissa Chan and Greg Bruno, have been blacklisted from LinkedIn’s China site.
U.S. Senator Rick Scott called the decision “a gross appeasement and an act of pandering to Communist China,” in a letter to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky and Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.
It is unclear whether LinkedIn’s decision was the result of pressure from China or the United States. It could be both, as the Chinese government has tightened its grip on the internet, and LinkedIn has been criticized for bowing to Beijing’s censorship rules.
LinkedIn launched its Chinese version in 2014, hoping to tap into the country’s enormous market.
But seven years later, it still faces challenges because of local competition and regulatory issues. According to reports, Chinese authorities sanctioned LinkedIn in March for failing to censor political content, resulting in a suspension of new user signups for 30 days. Along with the controversy over censorship, the platform has been used as a recruitment tool by Chinese intelligence agencies.
Lu Jian, president of LinkedIn China, wrote an open letter today to the platform’s users in China, promising to “connect global business opportunities” with the platform.
However, LinkedIn China’s closure illustrates the opposite trend. In China, the tightly controlled internet has drifted from the rest of the world. International companies operating in the country have a difficult time bridging this deep divide.