Video conferencing tool Zoom had obstructed several meetings and barred the accounts of three activists at the request of the Chinese government.
The company published details stating that the Chinese government hinted in May and early June about several online gatherings devised to remember the crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Zoom stated that the government told it such activities were illegal and directed that the company to stop the meetings and several accounts of the organizers, even though they did not live in China. Zoom subsequently barred the accounts of U.S.-based activists Zhou Fengsuo and Wang Dan, and Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-Yan. It reinstated all of their accounts on a later date.
“Going forward Zoom will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China,” Zoom responded in a blog post dated June 11.
The firm said that it is improving technology that would enable it to block participants based on geography. That would mean it could stop people in mainland China from attending future meetings on Zoom that are deemed illegal by the Chinese government. It did not give particulars on how it would decide which meetings would fit that description. This raises the problem of Zoom acting as a censor on behalf of the Chinese government.
Twitter and Facebook are mostly blocked inside China. Zoom is among several companies that are subjected to close examination by Beijing as they operate across global borders. Concerns related to cybersecurity and censorship are especially critical for those that route through or store data in the Chinese mainland.
Zoom is headquartered in San Jose, California, but carries out much of its research and development in mainland China. Zoom’s usage as a go-to virtual meeting app had skyrocketed during the pandemic.