After China expansion, LinkedIn joins free speech tech coalition

LinkedIn is teaming up with other tech giants and advocacy groups to promote privacy and free speech online.

The company announced Monday that it has become a full member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), an online advocacy group including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo. Previously, the professional networking company was participating as an observer.

"We look forward to continuing to work together with GNI as we continue developing business practices and advocating for public policies that promote the free expression and privacy of our members and everyone who uses the Internet,” LinkedIn Vice President of Government Affairs Pablo Chavez said in a statement.

The move comes after last month's announcement that LinkedIn would be expanding its service to China, a market that U.S. Internet companies have traditionally stayed away from due to the country's online censorship practices.

Announcing a new site in Simplified Chinese and the company's goal of connecting the country's 140 million professionals, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said the company "strongly supports freedom of expression and fundamentally disagrees with government censorship."

"Extending our service in China raises difficult questions, but it is clear to us that the decision to proceed is the right one," Weiner wrote, pledging that the company will protect its members' rights and data, comply with censorship requests only when necessary and be transparent about its practices in China.

GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan noted the company's recent expansion.

"As LinkedIn expands their presence internationally GNI’s principles and guidelines will help inform their approach, and collaboration with our growing network of companies, civil society organizations, investors and academics will help to protect the rights of their users," she said.

By joining GNI, LinkedIn is sending the message that "it is possible to address surveillance and censorship on the Internet transparently and accountably, even in some of the most challenging markets in the world," Bennett Freeman, GNI board secretary, said in a statement.