WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Zoom Video Communications, whose remote meeting app made the obscure California company a hub for global communications during the coronavirus pandemic, now finds itself fighting political battles in Washington and Beijing.
Even before Zoom ran into criticism from U.S. lawmakers about its relations with China this week, it had prepared itself for political problems. The California-based company recently brought on board several lobbyists, including a former Trump campaign official, and added a former White House official to its board.
This month, Zoom suspended accounts of three U.S. and Hong Kong activists at Beijing’s request after they tried to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Then on Thursday, three U.S. lawmakers asked Zoom to clarify its data-collection practices and relationship with the Chinese government.
“To be clear, their accounts have been reinstated, and going forward, we will have a new process for handling similar situations,” Zoom said Thursday.
Zoom’s mobile app has been downloaded 5.4 million times from Apple’s China store since Jan. 1, 11 times the number over the same period in 2019, according to research firm SensorTower.
Earlier this spring, Zoom fielded complaints about “zoombombing,” where people would inject hate speech and racist slurs into class meetings and other gatherings.
In May, Zoom said it hired David Urban of the American Continental Group, who headed President Donald Trump’s successful Pennsylvania campaign and is on the Trump 2020 Advisory Committee. Zoom also added Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a former Trump national security adviser, to its board.
In April Zoom said it had hired the lobbying firm Mehlman Castagnetti, Rosen and Thomas. Zoom also hired the Cohen Group, a company spokesman said.
ACG and Cohen did not respond to a request for comment. Mehlman Castagnetti declined comment.
Asked about the letters from lawmakers, Zoom said: “”We appreciate the outreach we have received from various elected officials and look forward to engaging with them.”
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio