LinkedIn told a China expert remove all mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre from his profile or they would block it in China

·3 min read
tank man tiananmen square
"Tank man," a protester who stood in front of a column of tanks and became an enduring image of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. AP Photo/Jeff Widener
  • LinkedIn told a writer his profile has "prohibited content" and would be be blocked in China.

  • Jojje Olsson's profile mentioned the Tiananmen Square massacre, an event China works to suppress.

  • LinkedIn told Insider that it needs to enforce Chinese censorship to provide "value" to users there.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A writer and expert on China was told to edit his LinkedIn profile or have it made invisible to Chinese users because it has "prohibited content."

Writer and photographer Jojje Olsson, who has written five books on China, tweeted a screenshot of a message he received from LinkedIn on Thursday, which said the offending content was in the Education section of his profile.

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The education section mentions several qualifications, but at the very bottom - for his bachelor's degree in history - Ollson mentions that one of his graduate theses was on the Tiananmen Square massacre.

China has long sought to suppress discussion of the 1989 protests, as Insider's Alex Ma has reported. At that event, hundreds of protesters - largely unarmed students - were killed on the government's orders in central Beijing.

LinkedIn began working in China in February 2014. At the launch, then-CEO Jeff Weiner acknowledged that the company would have to submit to government censorship, but "only when and to the extent required," Agence France-Presse reported.

US companies have long wrestled with Chinese censorship demands, and LinkedIn is far from the only one to comply. Apple, Microsoft, and Airbnb have all made changes to appease China, as Insider's Mary Miesenzahl reported.

Google in 2018 withdrew from a plan to launch a censored search engine in China after intense criticism and an employee backlash. The New York Times, Bloomberg News and the BBC have also found themselves frozen out in retaliation for their news coverage.

In a message to Olsson, LinkedIn said that his profile and his public activity - such as comments and shares - would be blocked from view in China.

The statement said that LinkedIn would "work with you" to try and make the profile viewable in China again "if you update the Education section of your profile."

"The decision whether to update your profile is yours," the statement concluded.

Olsson called it "absolutely unbelievable" in his tweet.

"I believe it's naive that Linkedin is trying to appease an increasingly repressive regime by aiding its ambition to control and censor the internet," he told Insider.

According to his profile, Olsson has already relocated to Taipei, Taiwan, from his Beijing base after visa problems "most likely related to the sensitive nature of some of my work."

He told Insider, he has no intention of removing the reference from his profile.

"As opposed to LinkedIn, I have already understood that once you start to give in to Chinese censorship demands, there is no turning back," he said.

"On the contrary, demands for censorship will likely only grow with time for everyone who tries to play this game."

A spokesperson for LinkedIn told Insider that the company strongly supports freedom of speech, but has "long recognized" that this is not tenable in China.

"It's clear to us that in order to create value for our members in China and around the world, we will need to implement the Chinese government's restrictions on content, when and to the extent required," the spokesperson said.

"We will also continue to be transparent about how we conduct business in China and use multiple avenues to notify impacted members within China about our practice," they added.

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