China has blocked access to LinkedIn amid a wave of calls for a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution.” LinkedIn became inaccessible in China after a user on the the career networking site posted messages inspired by protests in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled authoritarian regimes. Chinese censorship comes at a bad time for LinkedIn because its plans for an IPO could be foiled without a presence in the world’s largest Internet market.
LinkedIn up against the Great Firewall
China’s notorious “Great Firewall” has censored LinkedIn as part of a broader effort by the Beijing government to suppress dissent provoked by protests in the Middle East. Other sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked by Chinese censors since 2009. China will only allow social networks that self-censor information that challenges the communist party line. Chinese officials seem to have finally caught on to something Chinese dissidents have known for years: LinkedIn is fully integrated with Twitter. Subversive messages could be easily distributed through Twitter using the LinkedIn portal.
Why China censored LinkedIn
China censored LinkedIn after a user launched a discussion group last week asking for input on how the wave of unrest that ousted dictators in Tunisia and Egypt could reach China. The LinkedIn user, “Jazmine Z” first wrote of “dying for democracy, freedom and justice in my homeland.” A post that followed said the Beijing government fails to “realize the crisis of the autocratic one-party system.” The final post before LinkedIn was censored called the Chinese communist party “a Power and elite club.” The blockage of LinkedIn is the latest episode in a flurry of arrests and tightening Chinese censorship, reflecting the government’s uneasiness over the Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East.
LinkedIn IPO threatened
If Chinese censorship of LinkedIn becomes more than a symbolic gesture, the company’s planned IPO could be threatened. LinkedIn hopes to raise $175 million in an IPO either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange. Exclusion from the Chinese Internet market — the world’s largest with about 450 million users and counting — would lead investors to question LinkedIn’s future growth and profits. The price that investors would be willing to pay for shares of a LinkedIn censored in China would have to be taken into account.