LinkedIn to Shut Down Service in China, Citing ‘Challenging’ Environment
LinkedIn said on Thursday that it was shutting down its professional networking service in China later this year, citing “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements.”
The service, which is owned by Microsoft, said it would offer a new app focused solely on job postings in China. The new app will not have social networking features such as sharing posts and commenting, which have been critical to LinkedIn’s success in the United States and elsewhere.
LinkedIn’s move ends what had been one of the most far-reaching experiments by a foreign social network in China, where the internet is closely controlled by the government. Twitter and Facebook have been blocked in the country for years, and Google pulled out more than a decade ago. China’s internet, which operates behind a system of filters known as the Great Firewall, is heavily censored and has gone in its own direction.
When LinkedIn expanded in China in 2014 with a localized service, it offered a tentative model for other major foreign internet companies looking to tap the country’s huge, lucrative and highly censored market. The company partnered with a well-connected venture capital firm, which it said would help it with government relations.
But to do business in China, LinkedIn also agreed to censor the posts made by its millions of Chinese users in accordance with Chinese laws, something that other American companies were often reluctant or unable to do. Even in 2014, LinkedIn acknowledged the challenge, 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.”
Seven years on, it has become apparent the experiment did not work. No major internet platform has followed in LinkedIn’s footsteps. Its business in China struggled as it ran up against major local competitors and a population skeptical about publicly listing valuable contacts.
The operating environment in China has also become more difficult. Since President Xi Jinping took the reins of the Communist Party in 2012, he has repeatedly cracked down on what can be said online. Presiding over the rising power of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s internet regulator, Mr. Xi turned China’s internet from a place where some sensitive topics were censored to one where critics face arrests for a constantly shifting set of infractions, like jokes at Mr. Xi’s expense.
In March, the regulator rebuked LinkedIn for failing to control political content, three people briefed on the matter said at the time. Officials required LinkedIn to perform a self-evaluation and offer a report. The service was also forced to suspend new sign-ups of users inside China for 30 days.
The site also suffered as the U.S. relationship with China soured, with anger about LinkedIn’s complicity in China’s information controls rising in Washington. In recent months, after LinkedIn stopped displaying the profiles of several activists and journalists in China, American lawmakers criticized the company.
In one letter last month, Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, wrote to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, demanding to know why it had censored the accounts of three journalists. Mr. Scott called the censorship “gross appeasement and an act of submission to Communist China.”
LinkedIn’s business has also grown, with China contributing minimally. Since Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016, revenue from the business has tripled. Mr. Nadella told investors in July that LinkedIn’s revenue had surpassed $10 billion in annual sales, up 27 percent from the previous year.
LinkedIn declined to comment beyond its announcement.
While Microsoft has tried to build a market in China for more than a decade, it has had only modest success. Last year, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said the country accounted for less than 2 percent of its revenue.
Microsoft Windows and Office are common in China, but a large number are using pirated copies. The company has tried to overcome the issue, by hosting its software online and by tapping a major Chinese military contractor to help it offer an operating system better trusted by China’s government. Microsoft’s Bing search engine, one of China’s last remaining portals to the global internet, briefly appeared to have been blocked by government censors in 2019, even though the service directed users in China to state media accounts on disputed topics like the Dalai Lama.
It remains unclear precisely what will happen to the millions of Chinese user accounts on LinkedIn. In the past, when foreign internet firms have stopped offering locally censored services, their sites have been quickly blocked by the government.
Twitter to Permit Only Verified Accounts in For You Recommendations
Starting from April 15th, only verified Twitter accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations.
This was disclosed by Twitter’s CEO Elon Musk on his Twitter handle, which according to him is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over the platform.
Musk wrote on Twitter;
“Starting April 15th, only verified accounts will be eligible to be in For You recommendations. This is the only realistic way to address advanced AI bot swarms taking over. It is otherwise a hopeless losing battle. Voting in polls will require verification for the same reason. That said, it’s okay to give verified bot accounts if they follow terms of service & don’t impersonate a human”.
Fake or spam accounts otherwise known as bot accounts are visible on Twitter which are usually automated and not run by human users. They often make use of the reply function or direct messages to send adverts or scams to users or represent attempts to influence public discourse by tweeting something controversial.
Other fake accounts exist purely to boost the metrics of individual users, who can buy followers, likes, and retweets from bot sellers who control thousands or millions of fake accounts. Because they also inflate Twitter’s daily user numbers, they pose a threat to the company’s advertising revenue.
It would be recalled that before Musk acquired Twitter, he wanted to opt out of the $ 44 billion deal after he queried Twitter’s claim in SEC filings that a small proportion of its users were fake or spam. Musk further suggested that he could seek to pay a lower price for Twitter because of the fake accounts issue. However, after a relatively short court drama, Musk agreed to purchase the platform for the initial offer and has so far devised different means to address the bot issue on the platform.
Before the recent strategy to reduce bots by permitting only verified accounts in For You Recommendations, Musk had earlier rolled out a paid verification feature that will charge $8 per month to verify users’ accounts, which he claimed that the plan would solve the platform’s issues with bots and trolls while creating a new revenue stream for the company.
Musk believes that paid verification increases the costs of making bots by 10,000 percent and makes it easier to identify them. Meanwhile, the paid verification policy raised concerns about misinformation on the platform, as virtually anyone willing to pay the price could attempt to impersonate a public figure under the guise of a verification mark. However, in a bid to prevent this, Twitter has taken a step further by reviewing Twitter Blue accounts before granting them verification.
Moving forward, Investors King understands that Musk has also recently disclosed that only Verified accounts will be able to take part in polls on the platform. This is coming after a Twitter user suggested that Blue subscribers should be the only ones that can vote in policy-related polls.
Elon Musk Unveils Twitter Valuation at $20 Billion, Sees Clear Path to $250 Valuation
Recent reports reveal that Twitter CEO Elon Musk has put the company’s valuation at $20 billion, which is a significant drop from the price he purchased the company in October last year at $44 billion.
Despite the unimpressive company’s valuation, the billionaire owner told employees that he sees a clear but difficult path to a $250 billion valuation, a hypothetical outcome that would make the company’s current stock price worth 10 times as much in the future.
He further added that the company would allow employees to sell stock every six months, a practice that is also implemented at SpaceX, his space equipment manufacturing company. The sales of private stock would allow employees to have liquid stock but without the stock price chaos and lawsuit burdens of a public company.
Musk disclosed that radical changes including mass layoffs and cost-cutting would be carried out at the company where necessary, to avoid bankruptcy and streamline operations. The decline in the valuation of Twitter doesn’t come as a surprise owing to the fact that since Musk’s takeover of the micro-blogging platform, he has carried out a series of changes, especially in content operations which have scared off advertisers from the platform.
It would be recalled that at the start of 2023, the company’s daily revenue was reportedly down 40 percent from a year ago after more than 500 of its top advertising partners such as Audi, Pfizer, Ford, and the likes paused ads spending on the platform.
Also, concerns about an increase in hate speech on the platform after its acquisition by Musk who described himself as a “free speech absolutist” prompted advertisers to withdraw in droves. They have also been alarmed by a spate of impersonator accounts that flourished on the site after a botched relaunch of its blue tick scheme for verified users. Ever since, Twitter has remained in the grip of an advertising squeeze, after the social media platform hit a 40% drop in revenue.
Advertising is disclosed to be the main source of income for Twitter, which represents more than 85% of the company’s revenues. In 2021, advertising accounted for more than 90% of its $5.1bn in revenue. Musk perturbed by the company’s revenue decline in a bid to woo back advertisers on the platform, offered free advertisements to brands.
Musk rolled out a lucrative plan where companies who spend more than $500,000 on Twitter ads will receive a 100% match on their spending in equivalent marketing value up to $1 million. The platform also partnered with ad tech companies DoubleVerify and IAS on brand safety initiatives amid advertiser exits. These platforms will inform advertisers if their ad is placed around inappropriate content.
Investors King understands that Musk has been working tirelessly to increase Twitter’s revenue, the recently launched Twitter Blue program according to reports looks to have around 300,000 subscribers, which would mean that Twitter is currently bringing in an extra revenue of around $2.4 million per month via the program, or $7.2 million per quarter.
Known for his ambitious nature, Musk will continue to look for ways to generate more revenue for Twitter, after he recently told employees that “Twitter is being reshaped rapidly”.
Twitter Paid Blue Service Made Less Profit Three Months After Relaunch
Recent reports reveal that microblogging platform Twitter paid blue service has made less profit since its relaunch three months ago.
The giant social media platform relaunch of its blue service which comes with enhanced features such as an edit button, verification badge, etc, has earned the platform just $11 million in mobile-based subscriptions since it was acquired by Elon Musk.
Although the $11 million is no doubt an underwhelming amount, it should be noted that web-based subscriptions are not included in the calculations. Investors Kings understands that the figure represents the statistics of the 20 markets where the Twitter Blue service has been launched.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s blue service with verifications is now available everywhere, and the old checkmarks will vanish on April 1 this year, which may likely increase Twitter’s revenue. Reports show that Twitter Blue has more than 385,000 mobile subscribers worldwide on both iOS and Android. The U.S. is its biggest market which accounts for 246,000 subscribers spending around $8 million through their mobile devices.
The decline in the usage of the blue service has been attributed to the overall uncertain economy, which had slowed down market spending. It is also happening at a time when the platform has witnessed a massive drop in its revenue after several giant brands such as Ford, Audi, Pfizer, etc paused their advertisements. Ad revenue represented $1.08 billion of Twitter’s $1.18 billion total revenue in the second quarter of 2022, the last period when the company’s financial data was publicly available.
It would be recalled that Musk in a bid to lure brands back to the platform, unveiled a lucrative plan where companies who spend more than $500,000 on Twitter ads will receive a 100% match on their spending in equivalent marketing value up to $1 million. It has also partnered with ad tech companies DoubleVerify and IAS on brand safety initiatives amid advertiser exits. These platforms will inform advertisers if their ad is placed around inappropriate content.
Ever since acquiring Twitter, Musk has continuously attempted to renege on his $44 billion acquisition after admitting that the company was experiencing revenue issues and cost challenges. Known for his ambitious nature, Musk will continue to look for ways to generate more revenue for Twitter.
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