On Thursday, LinkedIn announced it plans to eliminate the Chinese version of its platform, removing one of the most prominent U.S.-operated social media bridges between China and the outside world. When LinkedIn revealed in 2014 that it would provide services in China, the company acknowledged that it would have to implement “government restrictions on content.” It was a bold and controversial decision that reflected optimism about doing business in China, as well as a willingness to weigh plusses and minuses. On the one hand there was a billion-population potential revenue stream and the real promise of connectivity between Chinese and international professionals. On the other was the noxious work of censoring political speech and the criticism it would certainly attract. Now, it appears, the minuses have outweighed the plusses.
The company, acquired by Microsoft in 2016, is not giving up on China’s professional networking sector. LinkedIn said it would replace its China operation with a freestanding job search site called InJobs that “will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles.” That indicates a much decreased censorship load and a step back from managing the data protection burdens of moving Chinese user data across borders—a task set to get more complicated when the new Personal Information Protection Law goes into effect in November.