The Tiananmen Square protests, 1989.
  • Zoom deactivated the account of a Tiananmen Square protester after he organised a memorial event for the 1989 protests.
  • Zoom said the account was deactivated to "comply with local law" but did not go into further detail.
  • The host is US-based, but Zoom's statement suggests some attendees tuned in from China, meaning Chinese censorship laws applied.
  • Zoom said it has now reactivated the account.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Zoom, the videoconferencing platform that's ballooned in popularity since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, said on Wednesday it had deactivated an activist group's account for hosting a Tiananmen Square memorial event.

The US-based group, called Humanitarian China, hosted a 31st anniversary event to commemorate Tiananmen Square on May 31, Axios reported. The group is headed up by Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests which culminated in a massacre of protesters on June 4 of that year.

Zhou hosted the event which was attended by some 250 people. Speakers included mothers of students killed during the protests. On June 7, Zhou's account was shut down.

A Zoom spokesperson told Axios the account was deactivated to "comply with local law." Although it did not explicitly say which local law this was, its statement suggested that users joining in from China may have meant the Zoom meeting fell under China's jurisdiction.

"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. 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," a Zoom spokesperson said.

Zoom has now reactivated the account.

Zhou told Axios Zoom didn't respond to his emails asking why his account was shut down.

"We are outraged by this act from Zoom, a US company," said Zhou. "As the most commercially popular meeting software worldwide, Zoom is essential as an unbanned outreach to Chinese audiences remembering and commemorating Tiananmen Massacre during the coronavirus pandemic."

Although Zoom is headquartered in California, it has already faced scrutiny over how it interacts with China's laws and regulations. In April 2020 the company admitted it had "mistakenly" routed some video calls through servers in China, sparking security concerns. Subsequently the company announced premium users would be able to choose which data centers are used to route their calls, and non-paying users would not have their calls routed through China.

China has stringent censorship laws which ban the discussion of the pro-democracy movement and Tiananmen Square. Zoom's decision to deactivate Zhou's account mirrors reports about TikTok, the wildly popular short-form video app, which was discovered to have been instructing moderators to take down politically contentious content including mentions of Tiananmen Square. TikTok is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, which is headquartered in Beijing.

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