Across the world, people who want to sign up for LinkedIn may do so without having to enter their phone number for verification. But that seems to be no longer the case in China, where the Microsoft-owned social media platform for professionals has reportedly begun to strictly enforce real-name verification through mobile numbers for both new and existing members.
According to TechCrunch, which cites a LinkedIn spokesperson in China, the requirement is part of a legal order in the country, where the government has a rigid policy on the real identity of its citizens online. It's understood that LinkedIn had been requiring its Chinese users to enter their phone number upon signup over the last few months, but this process had not been as exacting as it appears right now.
Here's the note that the service presents to individuals in China looking to create a LinkedIn account:
In some countries, local laws require that we confirm your identity before letting you engage with our Services. You must provide a mobile number and confirm receipt of our text. This phone number will be associated with your account and is accessible from your settings. If you choose to change or delete your confirmed mobile number your ability to access our Services in certain countries (e.g. China) will be blocked until you once again confirm your identity.
China's real-name registration laws took effect in 2017 as part of the country's crackdown on anonymous online users. The new policy requires internet companies to request identity verification from people once they register with online services. In other words, it's part of China's broader web censorship efforts.
The use of mobile phone numbers as a means for confirming one's identity became the norm since 2010 when the Chinese government required its citizens to present an ID when they purchase a SIM card. LinkedIn's rivals in China have already embraced the phone number-based identity verification for quite a while now, and it's unclear what took the service so long. In any case, the company is left with no other choice but to comply with Chinese regulation if it is to continue operating in the country, where most other western internet giants like Google and Facebook are currently blocked.