Zoom’s China censorship problem

Business & Technology

The tech hero of the pandemic lockdowns finds itself at the center of attention for less desirable reasons this time.

Eric Yuan (袁征 Yuán Zhēng), CEO of Zoom. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Axios first reported that Zoom “closed the account of a group of prominent U.S.-based Chinese activists after they held a Zoom event commemorating the 31st anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square Massacre.” Zhōu Fēngsuǒ 周锋锁, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen protests, organized the call through a Zoom account associated with his U.S. nonprofit, Humanitarian China. The U.S. account has since been reactivated. Some protest leaders in Hong Kong also say that Zoom has shut their accounts, the Washington Post reports.

Zoom did not detail how it will deal with China’s internet controls in the future, but did provide a statement that we are reprinting in full here:

Like any global company, Zoom must comply with laws in the countries where we operate. We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult. We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom’s power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech. However, Zoom is committed to modifying its processes to further protect its users from those who wish to stifle their communications. For example, for situations where local authorities block communications for participants within their borders, Zoom is developing additional capabilities that protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders.

Zoom is under scrutiny for links between the company and China, and Citizen Lab highlighted security issues with the platform in an April report. Zoom says it immediately fixed the vulnerabilities detailed in Citizen Lab’s research.

See also: New York Times reporter Paul Mozur commenting in a Twitter thread that Zoom “had been on Chinese censor’s radar for a while, but seems to have fallen through the cracks,” and an earlier SupChina report on a Zoom controversy, Taiwan bans government use of Zoom after data was ‘mistakenly’ routed through China.