Federal prosecutors in the U.S. brought criminal charges against an executive at popular video conferencing company Zoom on Friday, Dec. 18. According to the prosecutors, Xinjiang Jin schemed with the Chinese government to leak user data and censor video meetings discussing the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary.
Jin, who reportedly worked as Zoom's chief liaison with Chinese law enforcement and intelligence services, shared user data and disrupted video call services Beijing's request. According to the criminal complaint, Jin monitored video meetings that discussed religious and political topics censored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since January 2019.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, also added that the China-based executive was responsible for disrupting at least four meetings in May and June this year when the Chinese government commemorated the 31st anniversary of the infamous massacre of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
According to the prosecutors, Jin worked with co-conspirators to fabricate incriminating evidence against the US-based host by creating fake accounts to gain access to these Zoom meetings. He used profile images related to child pornography and terrorism to justify the account terminations. Zoom's community guidelines restrict such content and call related to violent activities.
Jin was charged with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification. If convicted, he can face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. However, Jin is yet to be arrested and he is currently in China, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US, the New York Times reported.
Zoom Cooperating with Authorities
In a statement, Zoom said that it is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice and fired Jin for violating company policies. According to the company, Jin shared a limited amount of "individual user data with Chinese authorities".
Zoom, which gained massive popularity during the Coronavirus pandemic, told IBTimes Singapore: "At this stage in our investigation, and with the exception of user data for fewer than ten individual users, we do not believe this former employee or any other Zoom employee provided the Chinese government with user data of non-China-based users."
In a blog post on June 11, the company also admitted making two mistakes with regard to the Tiananmen Square meetings. "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", the company said.
Zoom also stated that it suspended or terminated some of the sessions or meeting host accounts, one in Hong Kong and four in the US, and stopped the meetings instead of blocking the participants by country. The accounts were reinstated and at the time the company said it "will have a new process for handling similar situations."