US prosecutors have charged a China-based Zoom executive for shutting down meetings on behalf of Chinese authorities.
Xinjiang Jin, also known as Julien Jin, is accused of fabricating reasons to take action against various accounts, especially those critical of or commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, according to The New York Times. Jin is accused of gaining access to meetings and then posting prohibited content, such as child pornography or terrorism-related items, in order to get the meetings flagged and shut down.
“Americans should understand that the Chinese government will not hesitate to exploit companies operating in China to further their international agenda, including repression of free speech,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a statement.
Zoom has since fired Jin and has placed other employees on administrative leave while it conducts an internal investigation. The company’s investigation has already shown that Jin accessed and shared user data with Chinese authorities, although Zoom says it was “fewer than 10 individual users” outside of China. This was despite Zoom’s efforts to restrict China-based employees from accessing the company’s global network.
To date, Jin has not been arrested and will likely not be, given that he was aiding Chinese authorities. As the NYT points out, however, this is a significant escalation for US prosecutors, emphasizing the tightrope American tech companies operating in China must walk.