Microsoft deletes its LinkedIn profile in China
As far as social networks go, LinkedIn might be my favorite. No, it’s not as dishy as Twitter or dancey as TikTok, and it’s certainly not a timesuck like Facebook. But you can find out a lot about a person, and what they think is important — and proud of — just by searching through a person’s resume. For a journalist, that’s a nice tool. Sometimes, you can even find out stuff like secret government code names for surveillance programs, because even spies try to move up the ladder.
So the announcement today that Microsoft is pulling LinkedIn, which it owns, out of China is a weird one. There will still be a job board that operates under the LinkedIn brand, but it looks like it will be closed to posts containing news stories and people’s opinions.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is essentially making good on the threat that’s always loomed, which is that the government can taketh away. And that’s what’s important here. The move is coming after Microsoft said it was “facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”
My colleague Nick Gordon in Asia notes that LinkedIn is the last of the major Western social networks to operate in China, and had been accommodative of state demands to censor content. And, as the Wall Street Journal notes, China has blocked the profiles of journalists, activists and academics in recent months. So I have to wonder what exactly was a bridge too far for Microsoft if it was already caving to those demands.
Of course, there is a bigger game here. Xi’s government is cracking down on just about everything it can crack down on: video games, crypto, overeating. What’s a $2.3 trillion market cap company to China, a country of 1.4 billion people?
It makes me think about the limits of technological promises, and the nature of power. Tech’s boosters tell us it will cut down on labor, decouple money from national economies, save the environment, give a voice to the voiceless. In LinkedIn’s case, help us find a better job. But the utopian strain of tech has never seemed so thin as when collides with a state that throws its weight around the old fashioned way.
Kevin T. Dugan
That’ll fix it. The New York Times reports that Facebook will restrict who can see some internal discussion groups. The move follows the revelations wrought by whistleblower Frances Haugen during the last few weeks about the company’s internal research showing how harmful its service is to kids. The report also says that “Facebook plans to comb through some of the online discussion groups to remove individuals whose work isn’t related to safety and security.”
Maybe this will fix it, actually. The New York Post goes hard on Mark Zuckerberg for making $419 million in political donations to non-partisan non-profits focused on the nuts and bolts of voting in battleground states, like Arizona, which Biden won — but doesn't mention that the money also went to states he lost, like Florida and Alaska. (Disclosure: I worked for the Post’s news side for nearly six years covering Wall Street and some tech). This spending hasn’t exactly been a secret, and the Post’s editorial board is mad that Zuckerberg helped fund things like voting drop boxes, which they misleadingly say had “chain of custody” issues. Maybe they’re talking about the fake boxes that California Republicans put up?
Platform blues. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley plan to introduce a bill that would ban tech companies from favoring their own products in search results, and bar them from requiring companies to buy their products to operate on their platforms, according to Reuters. The senators previewed the bipartisan-backed bill at the Facebook whistleblower hearings last week, and come amid an onslaught of proposed legislation, antitrust investigations, and regulatory actions intended to rein in Big Tech.
Victims group. The US convened a cyber meeting yesterday with more than 30 countries — Russia excluded — on how to combat ransomware, which included discussions on law enforcement cooperation and the use of cryptocurrency by hackers. It’s unclear what results came out of the meeting.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Robot dogs have guns now. The Reaper drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that can reportedly hover at an altitude of 50,000 feet — making it difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye — and can launch laser-guided missiles to kill a specific target. Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani was killed this way — as have many, many others — at least 1,100 by 2019, according to one count.
So now we have a drone with legs — a creeper to the Reaper, if you will. Ghost Robotics, a company making military robot dogs, is working with SWORD International, an arms manufacturer, to install assault rifles on the backs of its mechanical animals, called Q-UGV. Putting an automatic weapon on the back of one of these things “offers a way for it to immediately prosecute any targets it might come across, if desired.”
Drone warfare has kind of gotten a pass from the general public. They were an innovation largely associated with the Obama era, and keep one’s own soldiers out of harm’s way. But a small arms version of the Reaper seems like a recipe for the kind of errors that have plagued technologically-assisted remote warfare of the recent past.
From the story:
Regardless, giving the Q-UGV a weapon of its own offers a way for it to immediately prosecute any targets it might come across, if desired. This could be especially valuable given the idea that these "robot dogs," just like their real counterparts, will be able to get into tight spaces that present significant risks for their human "handlers," or just be hard for a person to access all. A 6.5mm Creedmoor gun would give it the option of engaging threats at more extended ranges, as well. This could be highly advantageous for perimeter security tasks, which is already one of its key missions, at least in expeditionary scenarios, as well as for scouting and urban warfare military operations.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
‘I’m disappointed’: early Facebook investor Reid Hoffman says social media giant has lost people’s trust for ‘good reasons’ by Edward Ludlow, Clara Molot, and Bloomberg
Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.
BEFORE YOU GO
Out Clubbing. Clubhouse’s CEO Paul Davison went on Bloomberg to say that his audio-only network grew “way, way too fast” and is now trying to get on the path of steady growth. I’m not sure it works that way, Paul. The last time I went on the app there were a lot of rooms (read: conference calls) for dating advice and get-rich-quick schemes.
This is the web version of Data Sheet, a daily newsletter on the business of tech. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.