One common theme in this newsletter in recent months has been the pressure put on social media companies by authoritarian regimes. How long, I’ve asked, will the likes of Facebook and Twitter comply with rules that only strengthen anti-democratic rulers? Will platforms eventually pull out of certain countries?
Now one has, kind of. As BBC News reports:
Microsoft is shutting down its social network, LinkedIn, in China, saying having to comply with the Chinese state has become increasingly challenging.
It comes after the career-networking site faced questions for blocking the profiles of some journalists…
LinkedIn senior vice-president Mohak Shroff blogged:
“We’re facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”
LinkedIn will remain in China in the form of a jobs site with no social features, so this isn’t a case of the company flat-out opposing China’s authoritarian clamp down on speech, but it does show there is a dam that can break where it’s just not worth the hassle, bad PR, and employee unease in your home market to play along.
Will we see other companies take a similar ‘one foot out’ approach? Anti-free-speech rules in China, Russia, Turkey and India are unpalatable enough that it’s possible.