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Technology

LinkedIn shutters China site, calling environment 'challenging'

Microsoft-owned company to start job search app without social network functions

LinkedIn has more than 54 million users in China, making the country its third-largest user base after the U.S. and India.    © Reuters

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- LinkedIn will close down its professional networking site in China this year, the company announced Thursday, citing a "significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China."

The Microsoft-owned company said it plans to offer a standalone app called InJob for China that will focus solely on job seeking and not include social networking features such as original posts, comments and sharing.

LinkedIn launched in China in 2014 and has 54 million users in the country, making it the company's third-largest user base after the U.S. and India. While China has its own LinkedIn-like jobseeking sites, the U.S. platform is still widely used, especially by foreign companies in China.

Microsoft does not disclose how much China contributes to LinkedIn's revenue.

The professional networking service is one of the most far-reaching foreign social media sites in China, and also the last of major U.S. social media companies to exit the China market. Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in the mainland for over a decade.

LinkedIn said it had to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government on internet platforms to operate the localized version of its website. The company blocked the profiles of several U.S. journalists from its Chinese website and censored other content in accordance with local rules.

"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," the company said in a release Thursday.

As Beijing cracks down on big tech, requirements for personal information collection and content regulation have tightened.

In March, LinkedIn suspended new sign-ups for a month after executives were reportedly rebuked by China's internet regulators for failing to censor political content and were ordered to submit a self-review to authorities within 30 days.

In May, the Cyberspace Administration of China publicly reprimanded 105 apps, including LinkedIn, for illegally collecting and using personal information. The Chinese internet watchdog ordered companies to fix the problems within 15 working days or face legal consequences.

LinkedIn's China operation has also drawn criticism back at home.

After LinkedIn blocked American journalists from its China site this year, Republican Sen. Rick Scott wrote to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, demanding to know why it had censored the accounts and called the censorship "gross appeasement and an act of submission to communist China."

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