LinkedIn Launches Simplified Chinese Beta Site. Will Censor Content

LinkedIn launched a Chinese language version of its website recently to expand its base in China but it will regulate content if required.

With four million members already present on LinkedIn in China and the English site available for over a decade now, it was not possible for the world’s biggest professional site to ignore China any more. Yesterday, LinkedIn finally made its presence in China by launching the beta version of a new simplified Chinese site, to offer a more localized service to its members in China.

Revealing the news on LinkedIn’s blog, Derek Shen, President of LinkedIn China stated that the company has established a joint venture with Sequoia China and CBC to explore business. Through this site, LinkedIn hopes to connect over 140 million Chinese professionals with each other and with more than 277 million existing members globally.

Further, in his blog post, he shared some interesting success stories of professionals who have used LinkedIn for their professional growth and created economic opportunities for themselves.

LinkedIn, which recently revealed that it has crossed the 50 million users milestone in the Asia Pacific region, of which 24 million users are from India, had made its intentions quite clear for China in the beginning of this year.

To start with by mid Jan, 2014, LinkedIn appointed Derek Shen, the founder and former CEO of Chinese Groupon-like group-buying site Nuomi, as the president of LinkedIn China and VP at LinkedIn.

Later on to bring more localised features for the Chinese users, LinkedIn integrated with Sina and Tencent so members can easily import their Weibo contacts, invite other professionals to join their networks. With WeChat’s 5.2 version users also had the choice to integrate WeChat accounts with LinkedIn, so that they can rapidly broaden their professional reach and share relevant news and insights across both networks.

But LinkedIn’s new move to venture in China comes at a cost – content will be regulated.

LinkedIn’s formal entry into the territory also means that the network will have to work along with the not so liberal Chinese government. At a time when leading social networks like Facebook, Twitter have said no to any content moderation, LinkedIn acknowledged it will have to police what some of them say on its website.

LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner acknowledged in a blog post that the company would have to censor some of the content that users post on its website in order to comply with Chinese rules. However, Weiner said that China’s restrictions on content would be implemented “only when and to the extent required.”

China is a big market for internet giants who are now hunting for their next billion users. At a time when other companies have struggled to form a base in the country where censoring of content is a common practise, LinkedIn has joined hands which the company thinks is a right one in the times.

“Extending our service in China raises difficult questions, but it is clear to us that the decision to proceed is the right one,” Weiner said.

It would be interesting if other tech and social networking giants follow suit going further, at a time when freedom of expression and speech is being challenged globally and not just in China.