The California, United States based video conferencing app owner Zoom has become very popular in China in recent months as the Chinese found this app a way to get connected with the outside world with the so called Great Internet Wall, a form of state censorship on the internet in China.
However the services seem to have come under the notice of the Chinese authorities after it asked Zoom to take action against three accounts on its platform who were reportedly trying to celebrate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 in which hundreds, or possibly thousands of students and activities demanding more democracy in China were killed in a crackdown by the Chinese army. Zoom had suspended the three accounts which were later restored according to reports.
The internet in China is heavily regulated by the Chinese Communist Party led government for years based on the argument that that such regulation was needed to achieve social stability.
“For us, the biggest challenge has been how to reach people within China because of the firewall, and Zoom for a while looked like a ray of hope,” said Zhou Fengsuo, US-based founder of Humanitarian China, had his account suspended.
Since January 1st this year, users have downloaded the mobile app of Zoom in China about 5.4 million times from Apple’s China store and according to research firm SensorTower, that number is an 11 fold increase to the number of downloads in the same period a year ago.
“Zoom is not the only software, but we feel it’s rather more accessible. Before, some friends recommended Tencent conference … but everyone would feel like you shouldn’t say anything that’s slightly sensitive,” said Xiao Meili, a feminist activist who held a Zoom talk on the #MeToo movement in April.
The Chinese government blocks a number of sites and apps that are popular outside of China in addition to certain content being censored. The Great Chinese Wall prevents popular websites and app such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp as well as websites of many western media such as the BBC and Reuters.
There were few alternatives to Zoom, said New York-based Lu Pin had feminist accounts shut down by authorities in 2018. “You don’t have to climb the firewall, people in China and outside of China both can connect to it. It is understood underground churches have attempted to make use of Zoom to evade censors,” she said.
The first steps to regulate the internet in China were taken by China’s Ministry of Public Security in 1997 and said back then: “Users are prohibited from using the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit information that incites resistance to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) Constitution, laws, or administrative regulations; promoting the overthrow of the government or socialist system; undermining national unification; distorting the truth, spreading rumours, or destroying social order; or providing sexually suggestive material or encouraging gambling, violence, or murder.”
Errors in banning users for Tiananmen Square posts were accepted by Zoom.
(Adapted from Express.co.uk)