This year social-networking site LinkedIn has moved to ban content deemed sensitive by the communist regime that rules China in order to cash in on the world’s number two economy. Terms like “Tiananmen Square massacre” and “Falun Gong” are not allowed. If you haven’t closed your LinkedIn account yet, now is the time to do it!
After I confronted LinkedIn with my disgust they responded ambiguously:
Thanks for contacting us. We understand your point of view and that you may elect to close your account.
In February 2014, we began offering a localized version of LinkedIn in China. We believe that people everywhere can benefit from Chinese individuals connecting with each other and LinkedIn members in other parts of the world, and that the creation of economic opportunity can have a profound impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities.
While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China. We also aim to be transparent about our actions and their impact on our members.
LinkedIn Trust & Safety
The simple truth is that “people everywhere” obviously are not benefiting as LinkedIn claims they believe (I’m sure LinkedIn doesn’t believe that). People in China, in the range of hundreds of millions people, have serious problems with their government over infringement of those rights we take for granted in the First Amendment, such as speech, religion, assembly, and press. This is why Facebook and Google aren’t in China now.
The question LinkedIn has asked itself is, does our focus on connecting people in a business context exempt us from concerns about ostensibly non-business issues like free speech and religious freedom?
No, it does not. LinkedIn is a social network or social medium. Social unrest, such as that caused by the regime’s persecution of its people, has everything to do with a social network. There are myriad of persecuted groups in addition to Tiananmen Square massacre victims and Falun Gong practitioners, including web bloggers, human rights lawyers, and Christians. We can assume that if the regime requests any sensitive information about these groups from LinkedIn, LinkedIn will “adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government.” Isn’t that appalling?
This is not like Apple or Hewlett Packard who have computers made in China. With all media and the internet under the direct control of the Communist Party, information and communication are the chief tools used to control and persecute the people of China. Now, LinkedIn is part of that. It is tantamount to Apple designing software for all computers it sells in China to actively detect who an active democracy advocate is and reporting him or her to the local communist authorities. Of course, Apple wouldn’t do that because its brand’s reputation would be destroyed. Now LinkedIn is destroying its own brand.
Already, LinkedIn is obviously lying when it says “we strongly support freedom of expression” since it does not strongly support it in China, the largest nation on earth. Even tepid support is questionable. Already LinkedIn has turned itself into a shifty-eyed salesman spitting out any story that comes to mind for the next buck—truly, the shyster of social media! (By the way, the idea that more open trade leads to more human rights in China promoted by the Clinton White House and Republican congress in 2000 has already been a proven failure.)
How about a quality social networking forum for business-minded people that is built on some form of underlying values? There are many young entrepreneurs out there who should take this as an opportunity to capitalize. LinkedIn has failed to connect.
(Background: LinkedIn Connects with Beijing, Censors Falun Gong)
LinkedIn: A Sonnet
LinkedIn connects people the world over,
Crafting a cozy café oceans wide
Where people can sip with each other,
Do business without an eight-hour ride.
Yet, recently, when I was at LinkedIn,
I noticed something red in my chai tea;
It tasted of metal, horror and sin;
The creamer was pus oozing profusely
From a Tiananmen Square protester’s arm,
Rotting away after twenty-five years,
From the communists’ torturous harm
To Falun Gong, a hint of salty tears.
I spat out the nightmare, ran out the door,
“If this is censorship, I want no more!”