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LinkedIn blocks US journalists’ profiles in China

China Censorship (Mike MacKenzie/Flickr)
September 30, 2021

LinkedIn has blocked the profiles of multiple U.S. journalists from being viewed in China this week.

One of the U.S. journalists affected by LinkedIn’s action was Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who tweeted a screenshot of an email notice she received from LinkedIn announcing the action against her account on Monday.

“I woke up this morning to discover that LinkedIn had blocked my profile in China,” Ebrahimian tweeted on Tuesday. “I used to have to wait for Chinese govt censors, or censors employed by Chinese companies in China, to do this kind of thing. Now a US company is paying its own employees to censor Americans.”

The LinkedIn email explains to Ebrahimian that the social media company had begun offering a localized version of its website in China in February 2014 and that while her account can no longer be viewed in China — where she works — her profile remains viewable in other countries.

LinkedIn did not respond to questions about which content is considered “prohibited,” Axios reported. The LinkedIn email to Ebrahimian does say her account’s accessibility in China may be restored if she updates her profile’s summary section. Ebrahimian’s LinkedIn account summary currently says:

I am the China reporter at Axios, where I write high-impact investigations, exclusives, and analysis about China, with a focus on how China projects power and influence beyond its own borders.

Due to content contained in this Summary section, LinkedIn has blocked my profile from being viewed in China.

Before joining Axios, I served as the lead reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ China Cables project, a major leak of classified Chinese government documents revealing the inner workings of mass internment camps in Xinjiang. For this project, I received the Robert D. G. Lewis Watchdog Award, the top prize awarded annually by the Society of Professional Journalists DC Dateline Awards.

I am currently writing a book titled “Beijing Rules: Capitalism, Coronavirus, and China’s Quest for Global Influence,” for HarperCollins.

I was previously a reporter at Foreign Policy magazine, where I chronicled how China wields political influence in the US and beyond.

My investigations have driven national debate and influenced US policy. In December 2020, a colleague and I published an extensive investigation into a suspected Chinese intelligence operative in California who had developed close ties to Rep. Eric Swalwell. In June 2020, I broke the story about Zoom suspending the accounts of U.S.-based activists after they held events commemorating Tiananmen; after my reporting, the DoJ opened an investigation and issued a criminal complaint against a Zoom employee who was allegedly working with China’s intelligence services.

I am a sought-after speaker on China’s influence operations. I’ve given talks at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council, Asia Society, the German Marshall Fund, the Center for a New American Security, the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Tufts, Georgetown, and elsewhere, and at think tanks in Canada, Taiwan, and Australia.

Melissa Chan, a reporter for VICE News and German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle also shared the message she received from LinkedIn, informing her that her account also can’t be viewed in China.

“Got the @LinkedIn alert like many others — my ‘prohibited content’ will not be shown in China. I have a case number. Could be many things — from this year’s piece about Uyghurs in exile, to my essay on democracy.”

It is unclear how many other journalists have had their accounts blocked in China.

LinkedIn has been the only major American social network allowed to operate in China, the New York Times reported. Axios reported that as of 2019, LinkedIn had 44 million users in China and the country served as the third-largest user base behind the U.S. and India.

LinkedIn was punished in March for not employing strong enough censorship to China-facing accounts.

On Tuesday, in response to Ebrahimian’s tweet, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted that he had sent a letter to LinkedIn that criticized the blocks and asked what Chinese Communist Party (CCP) speech regulations LinkedIn enforces on American users and if it has shared U.S. data with the Chinese government “as required by Article 7 of the 2017 National Intelligence Law.”