U.S. journalists waking up in China found themselves blocked from their LinkedIn accounts. The reason? The company says it is following Beijing's new laws on removing "prohibited content."

Axios’ China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote Thursday that her profile was being blocked by LinkedIn over unspecified “prohibited content” in her profile summary. She described the move as something new, saying that she “used to have to wait for Chinese [government] censors, or censors employed by Chinese companies in China, to do this kind of thing.”

“Now a U.S. company is paying its own employees to censor Americans,” Allen-Ebrahimian wrote on Twitter. 

Allen-Ebrahimian was among a number of U.S. journalists, researchers and academics who received identical emails notifying them that LinkedIn was censoring their profiles in line with local Chinese laws. 

In the message explaining the block, LinkedIn said that it would be censoring the affected users' sections for publications, public activity, comments, and shares from being viewed. It said the information would only be blocked in China but would remain viewable worldwide. It offered assistance to "minimize the impact and review your profile's accessibility within China" if the user updated their publication section.  

She described the minimization offer as an "especially disturbing part" of the experience. She called it LinkedIn's equivalent of offering "a free self-censorship service" to comply with China's rules on the matter.

"We’re a global platform that respects the laws that apply to us, including adhering to Chinese government regulations for our localized version of LinkedIn in China," LinkedIn said in a statement to Axios. 

LinkedIn declined Axios’ questions about what counted as “prohibited content” and whether or not it maintained a list of topics that were considered off-limits. 

This is not the first time LinkedIn has censored civil society figures, domestic or foreign, within China. In 2019, it blocked the account of Chinese democracy activist Zhou Fengsuo and included the same message it provided to the U.S. journalists, sparking a media frenzy that led to reinstatement.

However, after pressure from China over what it deemed LinkedIn's lax enforcement of censorship rules, the company began taking a more active approach to abiding by the regulations. 

Material from users outside of China has also not been spared. In  2014, Bill Bishop, a U.S.-based editor of a China-focused newsletter, censored his content in line with China's prohibition on mentions of events like the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre that Bishop was sharing a link about.

Other U.S.-based social networking and technology firms have been prohibited from operating in China for their refusal to follow its censorship regulations. China forbids Facebook, Twitter and YouTube among others from doing business within their borders. 

Some have attempted to develop localized products that would be in line with Chinese censorship laws so they could access its vast market of users. 

In 2018, Google was revealed to be working on a search engine that would meet China’s censorship demands. The project was called “Dragonfly,” but it was terminated in 2019 after immense outcry from within the company, the media and the U.S. government