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Zoom closed the accounts of U.S. based Chinese pro-democracy activists, citing ‘local laws’

June 11, 2020, 12:16 PM UTC

Zoom Video Communications Inc. said it reactivated the account of a U.S.-based group of Chinese pro-democracy activists, after earlier closing the account “to comply with local laws.”

The San Jose, California-based company suspended the group’s user credentials after it hosted a recent gathering to commemorate the 1989 protests and massacre at Tiananmen Square, a seminal event for advocates of democracy in China. Zoom’s decision to close the account was reported earlier by Axios.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a Zoom spokesman said in a statement. “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. We have reactivated the US-based account.”

Zoom, which maintains a significant research-and-development workforce in China, has come under scrutiny for its links to the country. After the videoconferencing application surged in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers discovered instances when calls were routed through servers in China, even though no participant was based there. That raised concerns the Chinese government might be able to snoop on the video calls.

The company has since focused on raising encryption standards for its video conferences, though only large businesses that are paying customers will get access to end-to-end encryption, the strongest form of privacy. Zoom’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Eric Yuan, was born in China, though he is a U.S. citizen.