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Zoom blocked activist's account after Tiananmen Square vigil

The account of the US-based Chinese activist was temporarily shut down "to comply with local law."

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Zoom said it "must comply with laws in the countries where we operate."

Angela Lang/CNET

Zoom temporarily blocked the account of a Chinese activist after he used the videoconferencing app to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, as previously reported by Axios and The New York Times. The account has apparently been restored since.

The paid account belonged to Humanitarian China founder Zhou Fengsuo, and was reportedly blocked after it was used for a May 31 remembrance of the 1989 crackdown. China censors discussion of the pro-democracy movement. At least two other meetings related to China have been disrupted, the Washington Post reported.

Zoom acknowledged the disruptions in an emailed statement, and saying it "must comply with laws in the countries where we operate."

"We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult," a company spokesperson wrote.

"We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom's power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech."

The company's statement noted that it's working on protecting cross-border conversations where local authorities in one region block communications, so that people outside that region won't have their conversation interrupted.

Zoom later announced policy changes based on participants' geographic location, saying that it will not allow requests from the Chinese government to affect users outside of the country.

Zoom is developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography," the company said in a blog post Thursday. "This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities when they determine activity on our platform is illegal within their borders; however, we will also be able to protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed."

Zoom's business has surged as the coronavirus pandemic forced millions to work from home. That brought increased scrutiny and revealed several security problems. Last week, CEO Eric Yuan said it wouldn't add end-to-end encryption to free users' calls to keep the door open for law enforcement cooperation.

See also: How to use Zoom like a pro: 13 hidden features to try at your next meeting

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