Zoom caught in China censorship crossfire as meetings foiled

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FILE - This April 18, 2019, file photo shows a sign for Zoom Video Communications ahead Nasdaq IPO in New York. Video app company Zoom said Thursday, June 11 2020, it regretted that some meetings involving U.S.-based Chinese dissidents were disrupted, as meanwhile a prominent Hong Kong activist said his account was blocked despite the citys guarantees of free speech. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

HONG KONG – Video app company Zoom says that it blocked several meetings and suspended the accounts of three activists at the request of the Chinese government.

The company released details Thursday saying that in May and early June, the Chinese government notified it about several online meetings planned to commemorate the crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

China bans public dissent. Zoom said the government told it such activities were illegal and demanded that the company terminate the meetings and the host accounts of the organizers, even though they did not live in China.

Zoom then suspended the accounts of U.S.-based activists Zhou Fengsuo and Wang Dan, and Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-Yan. It has since reinstated all of their accounts.

“Going forward Zoom will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China," Zoom said in a blog post dated June 11.

The company said it is developing technology that would allow it to block participants based on geography. That would mean it could stop people in mainland China from attending future meetings on Zoom that are deemed illegal by the Chinese government.

It did not give details on how it would determine which meetings would fit that description. That raises the issue of Zoom acting as a censor on behalf of the Chinese government.

Some international social media companies, like Twitter and Facebook, are mostly blocked inside China.