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Professional social network LinkedIn has begun asking its Chinese users to verify their identities through phone numbers, citing local legal requirements, a measure that was first suggested in April 2018.

The American company is requiring both new and existing users with a Chinese IP address to link mobile phone numbers to their accounts, according to a TechCrunch report.

LinkedIn China is an independent business entity to LinkedIn. It was launched in 2014 under the helm of Derek Shen, who resigned in 2017.

linkedin china

“The real-name verification process for our LinkedIn China members is a legal requirement, which will also help improve the authenticity and credibility of online accounts,” a LinkedIn China spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson also links the policy to China’s burgeoning mobile industry: “Considering the growing popularity of mobile devices and mobile Internet, Chinese internet users are adapted to registration with mobile phone numbers instead of email addresses. Almost all apps in the Chinese market are applying this trend to follow users’ habits.”

The California-based social network for professionals is a rare existence in China, where most mainstream global tech services like Facebook and Google have long remained blocked. Exceptions happen when foreign players bend to local rules. Microsoft’s Bing is accessible in China by censoring search results. Google also reportedly mulled a censored search service to re-enter China, an attempt that outraged its staff, politicians and speech advocates.

China’s biggest professional social network is Mai Mai, which currently has more than 50 million users according to co-founder Zhang Wei; making it the second largest social network in the world. This is up from just 800,000 users in 2014.

Mai Mai’s $200 million U.S. series D investment, finalized in April 2018, was the largest single private placement in the professional social network market to date, globally.

Additional reporting: TechCrunch