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Yahoo leaves China over ‘increasingly challenging environment’

Yahoo! headquarters. (gaku., Wikimedia Commons/Released)
November 02, 2021

Yahoo announced on Tuesday it has pulled its business out of China, officially rendering the company’s range of services unavailable in the Chinese mainland.

“In recognition of the increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China, Yahoo’s suite of services will no longer be accessible from mainland China as of November 1,” the company said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported the move is largely symbolic as many of the company’s services are already blocked by China’s digital censors. CNN reported Yahoo had already discontinued several of its services in China since 2013, including its email services. In 2015, Yahoo also closed down its Beijing office, eliminating about 300 jobs in the country.

Yahoo’s decision to cut off all of its services in China comes just weeks after Microsoft discontinued its LinkedIn professional networking service in China.

Until recently, LinkedIn had been the only major U.S. social network company to still operate in China. In September, LinkedIn caught attention for blocking the profiles of multiple U.S. journalists from being viewed in China. Just weeks after the news of the censored profiles, LinkedIn announced it would discontinue its China-facing service altogether. Like Yahoo, LinkedIn attributed its decision to cut off its China-related services to the “challenging” environment.

“We’re also facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China,” LinkedIn said last month.

In place of its regular LinkedIn service, Microsoft said it plans to launch a new standalone jobs application in China later this year called InJobs.

Google similarly discontinued its services in China several years ago.

China heavily censors its internet and foreign digital services are often under strict restrictions while operating inside the country. In the place of U.S. internet search giants like Google and Yahoo, China’s Baidu has become the country’s dominant search engine. China’s WeChat and Weibo services are also the country’s dominant social network platforms, as opposed to U.S. social media company’s like Facebook and Twitter.

The Associated Press reported Yahoo’s decision to pull services from China follows the passage of China’s Personal Information Protection Law. The law limits what information companies can gather and sets standards for how it must be stored.

China’s laws already require companies operating inside the country to hand over data if authorities request it. Such laws make it difficult for western firms to store user data and comply with Chinese authorities while also respecting privacy concerns.

The Associated Press reported syYahoo previously faced criticism from U.S. lawmakers in 2007 after it handed over data to the Chinese government on two dissidents, leading to their imprisonment.