Improving Our Policies as We Continue to Enable Global Collaboration
Editor’s note 12/18/20: We have updated this blog post regarding the meetings in remembrance of Tiananmen Square to reflect information we have recently learned.
Editor’s note 7/1/20: We have updated this blog post to reflect new information regarding the planned release of our Transparency Report. We have made significant progress defining the framework and approach for a transparency report that details information related to requests Zoom receives for data, records, or content. We look forward to providing the fiscal Q2 data in our first report later this year.
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, we were notified by the Chinese government that they believed there would be large, public June 4th commemoration meetings on Zoom. The Chinese government informed us that this activity is illegal in China and demanded that Zoom terminate the meetings and host accounts. We subsequently were informed of or identified four such meetings.
- We did not provide any non-China-based user information or any meeting content to the Chinese government in connection with these meetings, other than a limited amount of user data concerning China-based attendees and potentially the meeting information for one of the meetings. We do not have a backdoor that allows someone to enter a meeting without being visible.
- For one of the meetings, a series of three Zoom sessions was held. Although we terminated one of the sessions based on the fact that it included China-based participants, we chose to keep a subsequent session undisturbed because it did not have any participants from mainland China, even though the Chinese authorities demanded we take action.
- For two of the four meetings, a U.S.-based Zoom team reviewed the meeting metadata (such as IP addresses) and confirmed a significant number of mainland China participants. In one of these instances, our analysis occurred after the meeting had ended, and we terminated the host account to prevent a subsequent illegal meeting from occurring. In the other instance, we terminated two of three sessions in a series, including one that was terminated based on an apparent terms of service violation, but left the last undisturbed.
- For the fourth situation, the Chinese government demanded that we take action based on a social media invitation for an upcoming meeting referencing a June 4th commemoration event. There was a prior meeting hosted under this account also referencing a June 4th commemoration event that the Chinese authorities 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 certain of the meeting or session host accounts, one in Hong Kong SAR and four in the U.S. We have reinstated all of the 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 later this year.
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.