Add LinkedIn to the list of social media platforms being used for nefarious purposes by a foreign government. A New York Times report on Tuesday called the Microsoft-owned site, with 645 million users, “another vehicle for potential disinformation and, more important, an ideal one for espionage recruitment.”
Western counterintelligence officials told the Times that LinkedIn is a prime hunting ground, with foreign agents approaching thousands of users on the site, and that Chinese spies are the most active.
“Instead of dispatching spies to the U.S. to recruit a single target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in China and send out friend requests to thousands of targets using fake profiles,” said William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, a government agency that tracks foreign spying and alerts companies to possible infiltration.
The Times cites multiple recent cases in which LinkedIn proved to be en effective recruiting tool under the guise of corporate recruiting or offers for speaking engagements and more.
Three years after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Facebook-enabled Russian scandal, the report comes amid heightened scrutiny by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The companies have reportedly been deleting accounts and dealing with disinformation being spread by Chinese government operatives about the pro-democracy protests taking place in Hong Kong.
LinkedIn, acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26 billion, is the only major American social media platform not blocked in China, the Times reports, because the company agrees to censor some material.
A spokeswoman for LinkedIn said a team at the company works proactively against fake accounts. A company blog post last week said that between January and June 2019, LinkedIn took action on 21.6 million fake accounts.
“We enforce our policies, which are very clear: The creation of a fake account or fraudulent activity with an intent to mislead or lie to our members is a violation of our terms of service,” LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Leverich told the Times.
Read the full New York Times story for more details.