We hope that one day, governments who build barriers to disconnect their people from the world and each other will recognize that they are acting against their own interests, as well as the rights of their citizens and all humanity. The reality is Zoom operates in more than 80 countries and continues to expand, which requires compliance with local laws even as Zoom seeks to promote the open exchange of ideas.
Recent articles in the media about adverse actions we took toward Lee Cheuk-yan, Wang Dan, and Zhou Fengsuo have some calling into question our commitment to being a platform for an open exchange of ideas and conversations. To be clear, their accounts have been reinstated, and going forward, we will have a new process for handling similar situations.
We will do better as we strive to make Zoom the most secure and trusted way to bring people together.
In May and early June, we were notified by the Chinese government about four large, public June 4th commemoration meetings on Zoom that were being publicized on social media, including meeting details. The Chinese government informed us that this activity is illegal in China and demanded that Zoom terminate the meetings and host accounts.
We did not provide any user information or meeting content to the Chinese government. We do not have a backdoor that allows someone to enter a meeting without being visible.
For one of the meetings, even though the Chinese authorities demanded we take action, we chose to keep the meeting undisturbed because it did not have any participants from mainland China.
For two of the four meetings, a U.S.-based Zoom team reviewed the meeting metadata (such as IP addresses) while the meeting was in progress, and confirmed a significant number of mainland China participants.
For the fourth situation, the Chinese government showed us a social media invitation for an upcoming meeting referencing a June 4th commemoration event and demanded we take action. The Chinese authorities also notified us of a prior meeting under this account that they considered to be illegal. A U.S.-based Zoom team confirmed the attendance of mainland China participants in that prior meeting.
Zoom does not currently have the ability to remove specific participants from a meeting or block participants from a certain country from joining a meeting. As such, we made the decision to end three of the four meetings and suspended or terminated the host accounts associated with the three meetings.
How We Fell Short
We strive to limit actions taken to only those necessary to comply with local laws. Our response should not have impacted users outside of mainland China. We made two mistakes:
We suspended or terminated the host accounts, one in Hong Kong SAR and two in the U.S. We have reinstated these three host accounts.
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.
Actions We’re Taking
Going forward Zoom will not allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.
Zoom is developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography. 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.
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.
In addition to connecting people for business, education, healthcare, and other professional endeavors, during this global pandemic Zoom has become the platform people all over the world are choosing for human connection. Zoom is proud of the role we are playing globally and fully supports the open exchange of ideas and conversations that bring communities together to meet, organize, collaborate, and celebrate.