US counterintelligence urges LinkedIn to shut down Chinese spies

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A top U.S. counterintelligence official is warning LinkedIn not to “be like Facebook” after finding that Chinese intelligence operatives are using its platform.

William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told Reuters that China is creating fake profiles on the networking platform to recruit Americans with access to government and commercial secrets.

China is being “super aggressive” in its use of the site, Evanina said. The official is asking LinkedIn to get aggressive in response.


Evanina recommended a response similar to how Twitter has handled fake accounts from foreign operatives attempting to use its social media platform.

“I recently saw that Twitter is canceling, I don’t know, millions of fake accounts, and our request would be maybe LinkedIn could go ahead and be part of that,” Evanina told Reuters.

Twitter canceled a reported 70 million accounts on its platform in May and June, following the company identifying that Russian troll farms used the platform to spread misinformation during the 2016 election.

Facebook faced similar problems.

“I think the cautionary tale … is, ‘You are going to be like Facebook. Do you want to be where Facebook was this past spring with congressional testimony, right?’” Evanina told Reuters. 

Facebook officials will face additional grilling from senators next month on disinformation campaigns on the platform.

LinkedIn pledged to do “everything we can to identify and stop this activity.”

“We’ve never waited for requests to act and actively identify bad actors and remove bad accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources including government agencies,” LinkedIn’s head of trust and safety, Paul Rockwell, told Reuters.

China’s foreign ministry denied that the U.S. has evidence of its use of LinkedIn, calling the accusations “complete nonsense” and citing “ulterior motives” in a statement to Reuters.

German and British authorities have tracked similar campaigns on LinkedIn, according to Reuters.

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