Friday 12 June 2020 10:43 am

Zoom to allow Beijing to censor individuals

Video communications platform Zoom has said it is working on technology that will allow the Chinese government to shut out individual users from meetings if Beijing deems them illegal.

The revelation comes after the US firm was criticised for shutting down a number of meetings organised by dissidents last week to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Zoom said in a statement today that its mistake was shutting down the meetings entirely, rather than being able to identify which users in attendance were based in mainland China.

It added that it is “developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography” — meaning Zoom will soon be able to remove users at the request of local authorities.

Zoom today admitted to terminating the accounts of three users who hosted such meetings last week at the request of Beijing, causing a wave of claims of censorship and privacy issues. Those accounts were later reinstated.

“We were notified by the Chinese government about four large, public June 4th commemoration meetings on Zoom that were being publicised on social media… The Chinese government informed us that this activity is illegal in China and demanded that Zoom terminate the meetings and host accounts,” it said.

Despite being based in California, Zoom operates a number of subsidiaries and a considerable number of staff in China.

Internet censorship in China is a long-standing practice, with a firewall having been in place to stop residents using services such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter since 2008.

Last night Twitter said it had removed more than 170,000 accounts tied to a Beijing-backed influence operation which deceptively spread messages in favour of the Chinese government, including about coronavirus.

Accounts praised China’s response to the virus, while also using the pandemic to antagonise the United States and Hong Kong activists.