American video company Zoom said on Thursday (June 11) that the CCP demanded to shut down four public meetings that commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Reuters quoted Zoom as saying: “The Chinese government has informed us that this event is illegal in China and asked us to terminate the meeting and the host account.”
Zoom said it did not provide user information or meeting content to the CCP, nor did it allow the regime to influence users from outside China.
However, before issuing the statement, Zoom temporarily closed three accounts that hosted the Tiananmen Square Massacre or June 4th memorial event; one in Hong Kong and two in the United States.
Participants and human rights activists living in the United States said on Wednesday that the commemoration on Zoom encountered disruptions and the organiser’s account was closed after the event.
NGO “Humanitarian China” said in a statement that there were over 250 international participants on Zoom and 4000 participants on social media; many among them were from China. Humanitarian China said the meeting represented the most important group in the collective memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Full statement of Humanitarian China on #ZOOM account closing after Tiananmen commemoration conference.
Invited speakers were detained or put under house arrests to stop them from this conference, now it seems ZOOM is doing what CCP want to silence us.https://t.co/oU9UAiMSyD
— 周锋锁 Fengsuo Zhou (@ZhouFengSuo) June 10, 2020
Former Tiananmen Square Massacre student leader, Wang Dan, organized the commemorative event on Zoom and said that his account was temporarily blocked, causing disruptions to the event.
Zoom said that it decided to suspend three meetings and temporarily close the three moderator accounts, because it was unable to block participants by country.
Zoom said that the fourth meeting was not suspended as there were no participants from mainland China. It has since restored three other accounts that were initially suspended.
Security Questions that Zoom Ought to Answer
While the video-conferencing app gained popularity amid the pandemic, there have been mounting concerns over its security and privacy issues.
On the censorship of the Tiananmen Square Massacre events, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio requested Zoom to answer some questions on Twitter, summarized below:
1. What data do you routinely share with China?
2. Do you have a CCP branch in your company?
3. Which “local laws” are you complying with?
4. How many other accounts/events are affected?
Earlier on Thursday, a Zoom spokesperson said: “Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate. When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws.”
The company is likely to face increasing scrutiny as U.S. lawmakers question its ties with the Chinese regime.
Values of the Free World, or Short-Term Profits and Censorship?
On Thursday, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley wrote to Zoom’s CEO Yuan Zheng questioning the legitimacy of Zoom’s censorship.
“Just as disturbing is your defense that you censored these conversations and suspended accounts to “comply with local law.” As I am sure you know, “local law” in China is extraordinarily oppressive. ”
Hawley said: “One week ago today, I sent a letter to American companies like yours, asking them to put American principles and free nations around the world first. Apparently, you did not read that letter because you censored discussions about Tiananmen Square on the very same day. I reiterate today that it is time for you to pick a side: American principles and free-speech, or short-term global profits and censorship.”
Republican senator Rick Scott also tweeted on June 13 that “Zoom’s decision to bow down to the demands of Communist China is unacceptable.”
“Shutting down accounts that pose no threat, simply because the Chinese Communist Party asked you to, is a slap in the face to those fighting for their human rights. This should never have happened.”
Despite receiving a huge wave of criticism, Zoom has announced plans to develop technology which would enable it to remove or block users based on geographic location.
This is not the first time that the company has come under fire for its security and privacy flaws.
Over the past few months, Zoom has been widely criticised for sending user data to Facebook, falsely claiming its service was end-to-end encrypted and “mistakenly” routing calls of non-China users via China.
Zoom was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in San Jose, California. Founder and CEO Yuan Zheng is from Shandong Province, China. He graduated from Shandong University of Science and Technology in 1987 and obtained an MBA from Stanford University in 2006.