Popular video-conferencing application Zoom closed a US account of activists who met to mark the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown. The incident raised an alarm about free speech in the United States as the App cited China’s official request as a reason to suspend the account.
US-based civil rights campaigners Humanitarian China organised a Zoom meeting to connect more than 250 people to remember Beijing’s crushing of the pro-democracy uprising on 4 June, 1989. The group said it had brought in numerous participants from inside China, but that its paid Zoom account was shut down without explanation one week later, Axios reported.
Videoconference company Zoom suggested it had closed down the account in the US because participants had broken “local laws”.
“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a Zoom spokesperson said.
“When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws. We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local law and continuously review and improve our process on these matters,” the spokesperson added.
The company did not respond to requests to elaborate on what laws had been broken and whether it had decided to disable the account after being contacted by Chinese authorities, The Guardian reported.
“If so, Zoom is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” Humanitarian China said in a statement.
PEN America, the literary group that defends free speech, denounced Zoom’s move. “Zoom portends to be the platform of choice for companies, school systems and a wide range of organisations that need a virtual way to communicate, especially amid global lockdown. But it can’t serve that role and act as the long arm of the Chinese government,” said the group’s CEO, Suzanne Nossel.
Zhou Fengsuo, a co-founder of the group and a student leader during the Tiananmen crackdown, told AFP the Zoom account was reactivated on Wednesday.
The controversial video calling app has been facing allegations of having a Chinese link. Recently, Zoom CEO, Eric Yuan had come up with an explanation in a blog post, stating that his company is American and Chinese. Zoom has been criticised for its security issues. The app was banned from various platforms, such as Google, SpaceX, and Standard Chartered. citing cyber-security issues. Taiwan asked its agencies to not use Zoom. The Government of India also issued a security advisory citing that using Zoom is "not safe."