Censored! Zoom’s upcoming feature will allow China to block individual users

By: |
June 13, 2020 11:33 AM

Zoom’s upcoming feature will allow it to block you if your government thinks you’re involved in some illegal activity.

zoomZoom made some mistakes again! (Photo credit: Reuters)

Zoom’s upcoming feature will allow it to remove or block users based on geography, the cloud-based video conferencing platform said in a blog post. This is so the company can comply with requests from local authorities to crack down on any illegal activity within their borders. Zoom also said that it will no longer take requests from the Chinese government to impact user accounts outside of mainland China.

Both these developments are concerning actually. On the one end, Zoom has acknowledged that it was open to impacting user accounts outside of mainland China (which means, virtually anybody) at the behest of the Chinese government until very recently, and on the other end, it is now saying out loud that it is open to the idea of a “censored” state which sort of defeats the whole purpose of it also simultaneously working on end-to-end encryption.

In other words, Zoom’s upcoming feature will allow it to block you if your government thinks you’re involved in some illegal activity. Zoom said it will “protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders where the activity is allowed,” which is again, another acknowledgment to the fact that it granted China the jurisdiction to impact user accounts, outside of its borders, until the whole thing blew up recently.

Much like any other Zoom controversy, this one also came to light after users faced it personally, following which the company admitted its mistakes, the “nth” time now. Several Hong Kong and US-based activists commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre through virtual gatherings on Zoom have claimed their accounts were suspended, allegedly at China’s “request.” Zoom has now confirmed it acted upon China’s assertion that these public gatherings were illegal and terminated the events and hosts’ accounts.

“We made two mistakes,” Zoom said, “we suspended or terminated the host accounts, one in Hong Kong SAR and two in the US. We have reinstated these three host accounts,” and “we shut down the meetings instead of blocking the participants by country. We currently do not have the capability to block participants by country. We could have anticipated this need. While there would have been significant repercussions, we also could have kept the meetings running.”

To be clear, Zoom is a US-based company headquartered in San Jose, California.

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