Beijing (AP) - The popular conference platform Zoom has admitted to blocking three video meetings of Chinese human rights defenders in the US and Hong Kong under pressure from the government in Beijing and to closing the hosts' accounts.
The US company, based in San José, California, said the accounts had been reactivated. However, the platform will continue to follow the instructions of Chinese authorities about "illegal" activities, although accounts and activities outside of China will no longer be restricted.
“Over the next few days” a software will be developed that should make it possible to exclude participants from video meetings according to their respective location. "This enables us to meet the demands of local authorities if these activities on our platform are considered illegal within their limits." Claims by the Chinese government that have an impact on someone outside of China should therefore no longer be followed up.
The platform's approach has met with harsh criticism. It concerned memorial services for the victims of the bloody crackdown on the 1989 democratic movement in China. Chinese authorities have asked Zoom to stop these video meetings in May and early June and to deactivate the hosts' accounts because these activities are "illegal in China," Zoom admitted. At one of the meetings, nothing was done because no participants came from China.
With the increase in video conferencing from the Corona pandemic, the number of zoom users worldwide has skyrocketed from 10 to 300 million in a short space of time. Internet experts have expressed safety concerns about zoom several times. It was also pointed out that a large part of its product development takes place in China, which could put the company under pressure easily. The government in Taiwan does not allow its officials to zoom in.
Zoom argues that, as a global company, it has to comply with the laws in the respective countries. "We strive to limit the measures that are necessary to comply with local laws," it said. "Our response shouldn't have affected users outside of mainland China."
Since May, Zoom has no longer allowed individual accounts in China, so they cannot organize video meetings either. Participation is still possible. However, the company sells accounts to companies with business licenses in China.
Like other large Internet companies, Zoom has got caught between the fronts of censorship in China and freedom of expression in the West. For example, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media in China are blocked because they don't want to censor themselves. In any case, China's Internet is largely disconnected from the global network. Many international media or websites critical of China are blocked. For example, Apple has taken tunnel services to bypass this "large firewall" from its Chinese app store under Beijing's pressure.