LinkedIn restored access to the profile page of a prominent Chinese human rights activist a day after the professional networking site told him that his page in China had been censored, in line with the pledge of the company to respect the "requirements of the Chinese government".
LinkedIn informed New York-based activist Zhou Fengsuo on Wednesday night that due to "specific content" in his profile, his page could no longer be seen by users in China, according to the correspondence Zhou posted on Twitter.
"While strongly supporting freedom of expression, we acknowledged during our launch the need to respect the Chinese government's requirements to operate in China," said LinkedIn's Zhou message.
As part of its launch in China in early 2014, LinkedIn, acquired by Microsoft in 2016, has accepted requests from Chinese authorities to block access to accounts deemed to violate local laws governing content.
The human rights community has sharply criticized the deal, and censorship around the annual anniversaries of the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square in 1989 against protesters calling for democratic reform has increased sharply.
My LinkedIn account was blocked by LinkedIn in China, a day after the blocking of my other social account in China. This is how censorship spread from Communist China to Silicon Valley in the era of globalization and digitization.
How does LinkedIn get the Beijing order? pic.twitter.com/CMC8K0aIpo
– 锋 锁 Fengsuo Zhou (@ZhouFengSuo) January 3, 2019
LinkedIn spokesperson Nicole Leverich told the Morning of South China On Thursday afternoon, an internal review had revealed that Zhou's profile had been "blocked by mistake," and said his profile's visibility in China had been restored. She declined to comment on the origin of "the mistake" or on the precise moment when the action had been undertaken.
Responding to LinkedIn's contention that the blockage was the result of an error, Mr. Zhou said in an email that he thought the media attention had "drawn the public's attention so that they can not handle it anymore.
Zhou, one of the leaders of these protests that once ranked fifth on the list of the most wanted people in Beijing, thinks that censorship has nothing to do with the content of his LinkedIn profile. Instead, he attributes it to his activities on other online platforms, such as the Chinese mail application WeChat, where he recently shared a video calling for the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping's regime.
Look: Zhou Fengsuo, former Tiananmen student leader, talks about the future
His attempts to contact LinkedIn and ask what "specific content" had caused the failure of censorship, he said.
"I feel angry and indignant," said Zhou, a leader of a human rights organization defending and supporting political prisoners in China, before LinkedIn's change of course. "It's just not something you expect from Silicon Valley, where they still profess their love of freedom and, in particular, expression."
When consulted Thursday from China, Zhou's web address returned a page asking users to check their phone number before proceeding. An SMS verification code has never been received.
Other LinkedIn accounts could be viewed on Thursday without requiring a phone audit.
Zhou, who said he only posted "sporadically" content such as articles and photos on LinkedIn, had recently posted a message in anticipation of the new year on behalf of his organization Humanitarian China, which mentioned the crackdown on against Tiananmen Square.
"Next year will be the 30th anniversary of June 4th," he wrote in a message sent to his 975 followers. "The 1989 democratic movement is the driving force of humanitarian China."
In early December, Zhou shared photos showing his presence at a Lantos Foundation gala where Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was honored in absentia.
Zhou's LinkedIn news feed also includes a photo of him and Liu Xia, widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, during his trip to New York in September.
But Zhou, who is a member of numerous WeChat activist groups, believes that his censorship by LinkedIn is the result of orders from authorities monitoring his activity on other online platforms.
"Yesterday again, I realized that everything I publish [on WeChat]the other Chinese can not see it, "he said Thursday.
Tiananmen leader Zhou Fengsuo pledges solidarity after secret trip to China
Mr. Zhou said the change took place after the broadcast of a video among several newsgroups showing people ripping and burning pages of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Governance of China, accompanied by a text saying that China would be "completely free" if Xi was dismissed.
The practice of censorship or retention of content by US technology firms at the request of foreign authoritarian governments has prompted further scrutiny after several recent cases.
In August, an investigation by the online media The Intercept revealed that Google was secretly working on developing a sanitized version of its search engine service for deployment in China. The project was stopped after internal complaints, The Intercept reported in December.
Last week, the streaming platform Netflix fired an episode of the series of American comedian Hasan Minhaj patriot act in Saudi Arabia because he criticized the ruling royal family.