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LinkedIn Site Inaccessible in China After `Jasmine' Pro-Democracy Posting

LinkedIn Corp., operator of the largest networking site for professionals, became inaccessible in China after a user posted comments that Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution should spread to the Asian country.

The blockage of the service “appears to be part of a broader effort in China going on right now, involving other sites as well,” Hani Durzy, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn, said in an e-mail. The company will continue to monitor the situation, he wrote.

Since 2009, the world’s largest Internet market by users has shut out sites such as those operated by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. that don’t comply with Chinese rules to self censor information on politically sensitive subjects. A LinkedIn user identified as “Jasmine Z” last week set up a discussion group to post opinions on whether the revolutions that brought down the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt should be brought to China.

“Often, this is done as a sort of a warning signal -- sort of a shot across the bow,” said Doug Tygar, professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley. “A portion of that is symbolic.”

The problems accessing the site are “likely” connected to the creation of the LinkedIn group, Tygar said. Chinese citizens can use Internet services to work around blocked sites, he said.

Li Wufeng, chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau, didn’t immediately return calls today.

On Feb. 23, Jasmine Z set up the “Jasmine Voice” discussion group to post opinions on the pro-democracy protests currently spreading through the Middle East.

‘Democracy, Freedom, Justice’

“After years of independent thinking, I am becoming a critical dissent dying for democracy, freedom and justice in my homeland,” Jasmine Z wrote in the first of three posts.

A second post said China’s Communist Party members fail to “realize the crisis of the autocratic one-party system” and a third post referred to the party as “a power and elite club.”

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed the U.S. will step up support for global Internet freedom, as citizens using social networking sites run by Facebook and Twitter organize demonstrations spreading across the Mideast and North Africa.

The U.S. will help “people in oppressive Internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online,” she said in a speech in Washington.

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. was filmed at a protest in Beijing last week. The U.S. Embassy in a statement said that Huntsman and his family were “passing through” the shopping district and his presence was “purely coincidental.”

After a video of Huntsman at the event began to circulate on the Internet, Huntsman’s Chinese name is no longer searchable on micro blogs like Sina.com. A search on Sina’s micro blog produces a Chinese message which translates as “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results have not been shown.”

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net; Thomas Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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