Microsoft Corp. has decided to shut down LinkedIn in China, nearly seven years after the social network’s inception. The move marks the departure of the last major US-owned social network from the country, as Chinese authorities tighten their grip on the internet industry even more.
On Thursday, LinkedIn said that it will be replacing its platform with a stripped-down version that would focus just on employment, known as “InJobs,” later this year. The new version would not have a social feed or sharing options.
Although LinkedIn has had success in assisting Chinese users in finding employment and economic opportunity, the company has not had the same degree of success in the more social elements of sharing and keeping informed, according to the company.
“In addition, we’re dealing with a considerably more difficult operating climate and stricter regulatory compliance standards in China.”
As an example of how a Western social media program may work within the country’s strictly regulated internet, where many other sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube have been blocked, LinkedIn has been extensively scrutinized in China.
The platform expanded into China in 2014, with the firm noting at the time that it would need to filter some of the information posted by users on its website in order to comply with Chinese regulations.
It has been one of the firms targeted by Beijing’s broad-ranging crackdown on the internet over the last year, which has put new restrictions on the companies’ ability to distribute material and protect customers’ privacy. Chinese officials have also stated that they want platforms to promote basic communist ideals in a more proactive manner.
LinkedIn halted new sign-ups in China in March, claiming that it was trying to ensure that the company complied with local regulations. Two months later, it was named as one of 105 applications that were accused by China’s top internet regulator of unlawfully collecting and exploiting personal information, and was forced to make rectifications as a result of the allegations.
Earlier this month, the news website Axios claimed that LinkedIn had removed from its Chinese platform the accounts of numerous prominent U.S. journalists and academics because they contained information that China considered sensitive, claiming “prohibited material.”
Also owned by Microsoft is the search engine Bing, which is the only major international search engine that is accessible from within China’s so-called Great Firewall and whose search results on sensitive subjects are filtered.