American journalists are receiving "blocked in China" emails from LinkedIn.
National and foreign affairs reporter Melissa Chan received a LinkedIn alert concerning "prohibited content" that will not be viewable to users of the social media platform in China. Chan speculated that the alleged violation "could be many offenses" from her piece about Uyghurs in exile to her essay on democracy.
Chan called the LinkedIn flagging, which she announced across her accounts on Thursday, a personal example of "how China's authoritarianism flexes beyond its borders so that I, an American using a US corporate product, is impacted."
The notifying LinkedIn message to Chan reads: "Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of how you present your professional self to the world."
"That's why we believe it's important to inform you that due to the presence of prohibited content located in the Publications section of your Linkedin profile, your profile and your public activity, such as your comments and items you share with your network, will not be made viewable in China," the notice continues.
Chan's profile and activity continue to remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which Linkedin is available. LinkedIn told Chan she may reply to the case for up to 14 days, although its status is marked "Closed."
"We will work with you to minimize the impact and can review your profile’s accessibility within China if you update the Publications section of your profile. But the decision whether to update your profile is yours," the patronizing LinkedIn alert concludes.
"It's on us, not them," Chan fired back.
Chan is a collaborator with the Global Reporting Centre and a former term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. She was listed in Foreign Policy's Pacific Power Index, a list of 25 people shaping the future of US-China relations. Chan's influential presence is described as the "canary in the coal mine for China's tightening restrictions on hard-hitting foreign reporting."
The Emmy-nominated journalist often reports on China's impact beyond its borders, contributing to notable publications such as The Atlantic, TIME, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, POLITICO, among other outlets.
She served as the China correspondent for Al Jazeera English for five years before she was expelled from the country in 2012 for the channel's reports at the network's Beijing bureau. Chan's visa and press credentials were not renewed, forcing her expulsion, which was the first of a foreign journalist since 1998. The Chinese government had provided no official explanation for the move.
Press reports and the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China connected the expulsion to a documentary on slave labor in Chinese prisons aired by Al Jazeera English that had angered Chinese authorities, The Los Angeles Times reported. The labor camps were often used to punish dissidents and other troublemakers.
While she had no part in the production of the piece, however, Chan's infamous expulsion occurred amid multiple conflicts between foreign reporters and the Chinese government over denials or delays in obtaining journalist visas.
Axios reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who covers China's role in the world and authors the news site's weekly China newsletter, was slapped with an identical memo from LinkedIn, except the professional networking and career development service claimed it was her "Summary section" of her LinkedIn profile.
Allen-Ebrahimian, who is penning a book about Chinese political influence abroad, broke the exclusive story for Axios about the investigation into a suspected Chinese spy who had close relations with California Rep. Eric Swalwell.
Before the Axios gig, Allen-Ebrahimian served as the lead reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists project on "a major leak of classified Chinese government documents revealing the inner workings of mass internment camps in Xinjiang," according to the journalist's LinkedIn bio.
Allen-Ebrahimian highlighted LinkedIn's update cue as an "especially disturbing part" of the LinkedIn customer service email, which she translated as the "PR speak into plain language." Allen-Ebrahimian said if she deleted the offending parts of her LinkedIn profile, trained employees can check to see if she has self-censored enough to pass CCP regulations. "i.e. Linkedin appears to offer a free self-censorship consulting service," Allen-Ebrahimian explained.
Allen-Ebrahimian dove deeper into the scope of LinkedIn's "offer."
"They are suggesting that the politically sensitive content be removed from MY END, meaning it would be deleted entirely off the internet, not just for China's market. Total censorship," Allen-Ebrahimian elucidated.
She stated that the maneuver extends beyond China's internet supremacy model and imposes China's censorship "extraterritorially." Allen-Ebrahimian suggested that LinkedIn allow users to create a separate LinkedIn profile for China's market.
"The only way to fight China's censorship laws is with law and govt action. Transparency and civil society action won't work," Allen-Ebrahimian stated.
She asked if LinkedIn carried out the action as "an act of preemptive self-censorship" according to a list of prohibited topics or if Chinese government bureau contacted LinkedIn about her account, questioning which bureau, if so.
Allen-Ebrahimian pondered what would be on the list if the former case is true. "Shouldn't that list be made public? Who is in charge of making and maintaining the list? Are there Chinese government officials tasked with sending regular updates about prohibited content?" Allen-Ebrahimian pressed.
"Are the employees tasked with sending out 'customer service' emails like the one sent to me based in the US or based in China? How do they communicate with relevant Chinese government agencies?" Allen-Ebrahimian queried.
"Allow me to suggest that blaming LinkedIn for 'caving' to China is not the answer we are looking for," Allen-Ebrahimian added. "If the analysis stops at 'wow look at the dilemma US companies are facing in the Chinese market,' we're not looking deep enough. The answer, like so many answers, is systemic."
"LinkedIn is acting rationally according to the rules that American society (and western society in general) has conditioned it to act: Seek out emerging markets, maximize profit, don't break the law," Allen-Ebrahimian argued.
She claimed that blaming LinkedIn for "following the playbook that our own society created is not fair." But critics find it easier to accuse LinkedIn of possessing "a morality problem" than to admit that the entire playbook society created is the source of the problem itself, Allen-Ebrahimian asserted.
"I used to have to wait for Chinese govt censors, or censors employed by Chinese companies in China, to do this kind of thing," Allen-Ebrahimian tweeted. "Now a US company is paying its own employees to censor Americans."
Allen-Ebrahimian questioned how many LinkedIn users followed the company's marching orders to regain access to China's audience.
Allen-Ebrahimian has not yet changed her LinkedIn profile since she received the email. She laughed off the prompt in the wake of the notification: "Haha, no."
"We're a global platform that respects the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China," a LinkedIn spokesperson told Fox News Digital via press statement. "For members whose profile visibility is limited within China, their profiles are still visible across the rest of the globe where LinkedIn is available."
Allen-Ebrahimian further lambasted the "internet sovereignty," citing the first public example of LinkedIn censoring a profile in China that she's aware of anyway: New York–based human rights activist Zhou Fengsuo's profile in 2019.
Zhou is best known as one of the student leaders of the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989, which ended in a bloody crackdown by the Chinese government. Zhou was forced into exile over the student protest movement and landed himself on a most-wanted list in China.
South China Morning Post reporter Owen Churchill brought attention to the case and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn reversed its decision hours later, which was deemed an "error," reinstating Zhou's profile after the subsequent media outcry.
Zhou told BuzzFeed News that on the same day, he faced suspension on WeChat, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent. Zhou believed a 29-minute video he posted that centered on the Tiananmen Square massacre triggered the censorship.
"As as Tiananmen survivor, my profile was erased from Chinese public together with the whole movement since 1989," Zhous said. "Now the western companies are by default complicit with [the Chinese Communist Party]."
Zhou said LinkedIn's over policing is "how censorship spread from Communist China to Silicon Valley in the age of globalization and digitalization."
"Just an American company acting as a censor on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party," commented New York Post deputy politics editor Emma-Jo Morris whose own bombshell report on Hunter Biden was suppressed by Big Tech.
Hours after Facebook censored the Oct. 14 front-page New York Post expose, Twitter followed suit, labeling the article "potentially harmful."
The official New York Post account was then locked out of Twitter altogether, because the story "violated" its policy against the "distribution of hacked material." A string of prominent conservatives were also booted from the platform over tweets related to the explosive New York Post report, including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Human Events senior editor Jack Posobiec.
"What a badge of honor. Jealous," Morris praised Allen-Ebrahimian's admonishment by the Chinese censorship overlords.
Months ago, LinkedIn was in hot water over its lax censorship. In March, LinkedIn executives were rebuked by Chinese internet censors for not doing enough to moderate political speech and remove the content China finds objectionable.
As punishment, Chinese officials required LinkedIn to perform a self-evaluation and provide a report to the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's internet regulator, The New York Times reported.
LinkedIn began operating in China in 2014, with then-CEO Jeff Weiner vowing that the site would be transparent about its business dealings with China and will use multiple avenues to notify members about company practices.
On the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Big Tech search engines led by Microsoft censored image results across the world for "tank man," a reference to the lone protester who stood in front of Chinese tanks.
A spokesperson for Microsoft claimed that an "accidental human error" was to blame for the missing images of "tank man" on its Bing search results.
The Post Millennial has reached out to Chan and Allen-Ebrahimian for comment.
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