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Zoom faces heat for suspending accounts of China activists in US

A China-centric non-profit group has alleged that its paid Zoom account was closed after its members held a conference commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre.

twitter-logoAnkit Kumar | June 12, 2020 | Updated 10:46 IST

Highlights

  • Zoom is a popular video conferencing application
  • The app is currently under fire for suspending accounts of US-based activists
  • There are allegations that Zoom is helping the Chinese government

Popular video conference app Zoom has come under fire for suspending accounts of US-based activists who used the online platform to organise a virtual meet up on the anniversary of China's Tiananmen Square crackdown. Humanitarian China, a China-centric non-profit group has alleged that its paid Zoom account was closed after its members held a conference commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. The group also alleged that individual accounts of Lee Cheuk Yan, Chairman of Hong Kong Alliance was also suspended.

The group's leaders have alleged that the US-based technology company actually helped the Chinese regime. "We asked zoom for an explanation and we haven't been answered so far. At a critical moment, the CCP (Communist Party of China) blocked the internet, many speakers who participated in our commemorative meeting were arrested and the US company zoom helped" Fengsuo Zhou, group's co-founder wrote in his social media post.

As part of the virtual meet up organised by the group on May 31, participants from China and those living outside joined in to share with the testimonies of people associated with infamous events of Tiananmen Square crackdown. The pro-democracy student-led demonstrations held at Tiananmen Square in Beijing were crushed by PLA troops on June 4, 1989.

Responding to India Today, Zoom has said that that the accounts were closed in order "to comply with local law" and said it had now been re-activated. Zoom spokesperson said: "Like any global company, Zoom must comply with laws in the countries where we operate. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult." Zoom said that it regretted that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. However, it maintained that it is not in the company's power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech. "Zoom is developing additional capabilities that protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders," the spokesperson said. These capabilities are likely to prevent the participants from joining such meetings that violate the local laws instead of being forced to shut down a meeting or terminate any account in the future.

Earlier a report by Canada based Citizen's Lab had found that its encryption keys were delivered to participants through servers in China, even when all meeting participants, and subscribers, were outside of China. This leaves space for potential abuse of the Zoom's data by the Chinese government as the Chinese laws make it possible for the authorities to access data gathered by China-based companies.

Headquartered in San Jose, USA, Zoom Video Communication is a publically traded company that has around two thousand employees worldwide. The tech company recently announced its first-quarter total revenue of $328.2 million, which is up 169% year-over-year.

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