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LinkedIn and Sexual Harassment

By its own assessment, LinkedIn has 706+ million users, approximately 57% of whom are believed to be male. While LinkedIn markets itself as a networking platform for professionals to create connections, some users manipulate their connections for less than professional purposes.

Female users report experiencing misogynistic comments about their appearance and requests from men seeking personal connections. In January, Vice posted an article entitled “Dear Men, Please Stop Using LinkedIn to Hit on Women” to complain about the misogyny women experience on the site. The article references a journalist who shared her experience with LinkedIn harassment online; a professional exchange deteriorated to sexually offensive comments. Some women report setting up interviews through the network only to arrive and learn the contact was seeking a romantic date.

LinkedIn is reportedly aware of these concerns. It has not, however, disclosed how pervasive the problem may be. In response to press questions about safeguarding women, LinkedIn has responded, “We can and will permanently restrict members that abuse our policies. When a member reports a message or conversation, we investigate and take appropriate action.” As is evident from this statement, women must vigilantly report each instance of harassment for LinkedIn to take action.

Cindy Gallop, an English advertising executive, suggested three solutions for LinkedIn to undertake to reduce harassment. She recommends 1) a message reminding users it is a professional platform and where to report harassment; 2) adding the message “please, keep it professional” in every comment box; 3) placing the statement “Please ensure your message is professional” in each message box. LinkedIn has indicated that it plans to roll out new tools to help address the harassment, including some of these warnings as well as sending updates to those users who complain about harassment. LinkedIn has not indicated any intention to add automatic triggers to block offending content.