Why Did China Block and Then Unblock LinkedIn?

By Kenna McHugh Comment

China’s internet censorship policy, known as China’s great firewall (GFW) played an important role in the headlines last week due to the fact that GFW blocked and then, a couple of days later, unblocked business social network LinkedIn.

The blockage was an important issue because it was obvious that LinkedIn was the last English-language social network to not be censored. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and Google are censored. So once the move was made, people assumed LinkedIn would be blocked for good. What was interesting was the fact that LinkedIn was subsequently unblocked within a few days. What’s the deal? Sure, LinkedIn is by no account mainstream in China and has very little impact on the local digital scene. But what was the reason behind the block and then subsequent about face?

A few social network specialists have their theories. Gary Epstein of Forbes’ answer is the “Jasmine Revolution,” which so far has been not a protest movement but an occasion to display the reach of China’s security apparatus and the limits placed on China’s Internet. But, he quickly points out, most likely it was a technical glitch or accident that was quickly resolved. Those do happen in China. Perhaps, social networking specialists were quick to react.

TechRice reports that LinkedIn was never really that big in China anyway. So the purpose of blocking the business social network doesn’t make sense anyway. We could speculate when the blockage occurred LinkedIn took action that lifted the block, such as deleting the offending group and removing the offending users.

However, if the block were for anti-government messages, I doubt the blockage would lift so quickly. All in all, LinkedIn is now an official part of the prestigious social networking companies that get censured by China.