Zoom says new technology will allow governments to censor users locally

Posted by

Zoom has announced it will develop a new technology that will allow it to remove or block users at a local level. This means a user account can be blocked if their government demands so within the country’s borders, but it will operate outside of it.

The change in Zoom’s system comes close on the heels of the incident wherein Zoom took orders from the Chinese government to suspend accounts of two demonstrators who were commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The technology, which is still under development and is expected to be rolled out in the coming days, could specifically be targeted at users in China whose accounts can be blocked at the request of Beijing.

In addition to the technology that is likely to be released “over the next several days”, Zoom has added it will not allow the requests from the Chinese government to block users outside of mainland China. The announcement also means that Zoom will take the requests of Beijing into consideration for all the users in China, including those that urge the company to permanently remove accounts.

Earlier this week, Zoom admitted that it suspended the accounts of one Hong Kong- and two US-based users, who were engaged in pro-democratic demonstrations to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, on the request of Beijing. Although these accounts were reinstated shortly after the confession, China’s clutch on the popular video conferencing platform has raised eyebrows across the globe, specifically in the US that has urged the company to come clean on its relationship with China.

Zoom’s latest move has rekindled the discussion over the censorship practised by Beijing, with the US coming into action more promptly. China has profusely blocked major internet companies to operate in the mainland over its draconian rules of censorship. While major internet services, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter are banned in China, Zoom is accessible in the country, albeit with several conditions. China demands the companies that are based outside of the country to store the data of their citizens within the borders. Besides, Beijing regulates the flow of content within the country, so much so that it can ask companies to take actions such as removing a user account.

“We are improving our global policy to respond to these types of requests. We will outline this policy as part of our transparency report, to be published by June 30, 2020,” said Zoom in a blog post after it re-activated the accounts of the demonstrators.

Zoom’s popularity surged after the global population went into lockdown and working remotely. Built for enterprises, Zoom initially struggled to handle the demand for servers and other requisites to tackle any overloads. Consequently, the video conferencing platform had one too many goof-ups in the past.