Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., called out LinkedIn, the professional social media platform, for banning users in China that the Communist Party flags as inappropriate.
According to the Washington Examiner, Banks sent a letter to the Microsoft-owned platform Friday, accusing it of bowing to China and banning profiles of users with content the Chinese government finds offensive.
”LinkedIn is pressuring U.S. citizens to remove posts critical of China’s dictatorship because, apparently, ‘regional laws’ compel them to do [Chinese President] Xi’s [Jinping’s] bidding,” Banks told the Washington Examiner. ”That’s a lie — LinkedIn is simply selling out America’s values and national security in order to boost its bottom line. LinkedIn needs to pick a side. Either serve the Communist Party or support the United States.”
A Wall Street Journal report in June said that a number of academics had their profiles blocked in China for items in their ”experience,” or ”education” sections.
In one case, an Oxford university doctoral student had his profile banned because he listed 2015 work as a research assistant working on a book dealing with the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
”These users typically have been posting on social media or have been sharing like personal chat groups about how LinkedIn has been sending them messages about offensive content, so-called offensive and prohibited content in their experience section or in their publication sections,” Journal reporter Liza Lin said during a podcast in June.
”And I’ll give you an example. I spoke to an Oxford academic the other day and he said earlier this month he got a note from LinkedIn and LinkedIn told him that his profile was currently blocked in China and had something to do with the content in his experience section.”
Banks said that more than 100 profiles have been identified as banned in China, but he believes it may be in the thousands.
He also said he is concerned that China may be using the platform to recruit U.S. sources, which would be a crime in the U.S.
Banks said he does not know if LinkedIn was trying to prevent this, or simply working with the Chinese Communist Party to censor the profiles.
LinkedIn is the only United States social media platform operating in the Communist country with other entities including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube banned in the country since 2009.
In a recent statement, LinkedIn said it was ”pausing” new members signing up for the app in China and making adjustments to adapt to ”local law.”
”While we remain focused on creating economic opportunity for our members in China, we’re temporarily pausing new member sign-ups to our LinkedIn App in China to ensure we remain in compliance with local law,” the Aug. 12 statement said. ”We’re a global platform with an obligation to respect the local laws that apply to us.”
”LinkedIn is really the only U.S. social network that’s allowed to operate in China, and this shows why it’s so hard,” Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, an advocacy group backed by Big Tech companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google told the Examiner.
”China, Russia, and India are all cracking down on free expression online,” Kovacevich continued, “and U.S. officials should be sticking up for global internet freedom and human rights instead of sending cheap-shot letters to American services caught in a difficult position.”
According to the company, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with more than 774 million users in 200 countries and territories.
It was started by co-founder Reid Hoffman in 2002, and officially launched on May 5, 2003.