Microsoft will shut down the Chinese version of its professional networking website LinkedIn, saying it has found it increasingly difficult to comply with the Communist regime’s demands for control.

The professional networking site said it would abandon the country as it faced “significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China”.

LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was the last major US social network to operate in China, where many major Western sites are blocked.

Beijing’s internet regulators typically demand that social media sites heavily censor material discussing politics and human rights, and LinkedIn was criticised for adhering to such demands. 

However, it has also come under pressure within China in recent months. LinkedIn executives were rebuked for failing to delete posts that were unpopular with local authorities and the company was forced to suspend new sign-ups earlier this year. Human rights activists and journalists focusing on China have also had their profiles blocked.

Connecting the dots

LinkedIn’s head of engineering Mohak Shroff said: “Our decision to launch a localised version of LinkedIn in China in February 2014 was driven by our mission to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

“We recognised that operating a localised version of LinkedIn in China would mean adherence to requirements of the Chinese government on internet platforms. While we strongly support freedom of expression, we took this approach in order to create value for our members in China and around the world.”

LinkedIn said it would instead offer a jobs site without social features such as posting and commenting.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all been blocked in China for several years, with the companies saying they are unwilling to bend to censorship demands.  

Microsoft has come under growing scrutiny over LinkedIn’s position in China as relations between the country and the US deteriorate.