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A man displays an image of the Tiananmen crackdown during a vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Photo: Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. video conferencing company Zoom issued a statement on Thursday acknowledging that the Chinese government requested that it suspend the accounts of several U.S.- and Hong Kong-based Chinese activists for holding events commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

The big picture: Zoom claims that it only took action because the Chinese government informed the company that "this activity is illegal in China" and that meeting metadata showed "a significant number of mainland China participants." Zoom said it does not have the ability to block participants from a certain country, and so it made the decision to end some of the meetings and suspend the host accounts.

  • The statement from the company comes one day after Axios revealed the suspensions, prompting widespread backlash from lawmakers and human rights activists.
  • Zoom has faced growing scrutiny over security concerns and its ties to China. China forbids free discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.

What they're saying:

"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."
— Zoom blog

What's next: Zoom said that it will no longer allow requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China, and that it is working on technology that will allow it to remove or block participants based on geography.

The bottom line: The statement indicates that Zoom is agreeing to China's demands to construct an in-company censorship apparatus to prevent mainland users from accessing sensitive meetings.

Go deeper

New downloads of TikTok, WeChat to be blocked in U.S. on Sunday

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Commerce Department issued Friday an order blocking new downloads of WeChat and TikTok in the U.S. as of Sept. 20.

The state of play: President Trump has been in a standoff with TikTok, threatening to ban the app if its Chinese owner, ByteDance, does not relinquish control to a U.S. company. A deal is in the works with the American tech company Oracle, but would need to go through before Sunday to prevent TikTok from being ousted from app stores.

Sep 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

Twitter adds security measures for high-profile political users

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twitter is adding new security measures for a designated group of high-profile, election-related Twitter accounts in the U.S.

Why it matters: The move follows a major hack of high-profile Twitter users in July that security experts worry could foreshadow security risks ahead of the election.

Updated 4 mins ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

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