Microsoft to ‘sunset’ LinkedIn for China, and replace it with an app lacking social media features

Microsoft announced this morning that it’s shutting down the localized version of LinkedIn for China that has been available there since 2014. The move comes after increasing claims from academics and reporters that they’ve received notifications stating their profiles on the service are blocked in China, as reported recently by The Wall Street Journal.

In its blog post announcing the move and a plan to launch a new China-only standalone product called InJobs, Microsoft did not directly reference those reports. Instead, it says:

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. We’re also facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chinese government instructed Microsoft to better regulate its content in March, with a 30-day deadline.

Last year when the Trump administration tried to arrange the acquisition of TikTok by Microsoft (CEO Satya Nadella called it the “strangest thing I’ve ever worked on”), the company’s “immense soft power” in the country was part of making that possible. Outside of GitHub and Amazon’s review system, LinkedIn was the only other foreign-owned platform allowed to host user-generated content in China.

Twitter and Facebook have been blocked in China since 2009, while Google moved its search operations from mainland China to Hong Kong in 2010. Meanwhile, Microsoft has sanitized Chinese language search results on Bing and offered a customized version of Windows 10. However, as China’s government has broadened a crackdown on tech giants in a manner affecting gaming, ride-sharing, cryptocurrency, and more, its requests apparently crossed Microsoft’s self-identified threshold to reevaluate its LinkedIn operations. Apple continues to operate in the country unconstrained.

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