Can LinkedIn succeed where others American Internet companies have been blocked? We’re talking China, where the Mountain View company has added a Chinese-language website.
The social networking service for professionals has actually had a start in China, where it’s had a presence for years and has more than 4 million members. (Maybe it helps that professional networks are mostly strictly business, where theoretically nothing politically provocative is discussed.) But CEO Jeff Weiner said in a LinkedIn post yesterday that the company’s expansion will help “achieve our vision of extending the company’s professional network into the world’s first economic graph.”
As we’ve written, tech companies such as Google and Yahoo have had high-profile, censorship-related issues with China. Google, which dominates search in many other parts of the world, has effectively pulled out of that search market. Facebook and Twitter are only officially allowed in Shanghai’s free-trade zone.
Weiner addressed the censorship question in his post, saying “LinkedIn strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship. At the same time, we also believe that LinkedIn’s absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform.” He said the company would comply with censorship “only when and to the extent required.”
The move, of course, has its critics: “They should enter the market with the aim of a net expansion of free online expression rather than a diminishment of it,” Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based research organization, told Bloomberg.
LinkedIn shares were up more than 5 percent to $210.45 as of this post.
Photo: LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner speaks at the Plug and Play Tech Center on Feb. 24 in Sunnyvale, where he had a conversation with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who made her first trip to Silicon Valley as secretary. ( Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)