Zoom Executive Allegedly Doctored Child Porn to Smear Tiananmen Square Memorial Activists

American prosecutors have charged a Zoom executive in an elaborate scheme to disrupt video meetings of activists who planned to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. The complaint and arrest warrant for Xinjiang Jin, a Zoom employee and the company’s liaison to Chinese law enforcement, were unsealed by the Department of Justice

“As detailed in the complaint, Jin’s co-conspirators created fake email accounts and [Zoom] accounts in the names of others, including [People’s Republic of China] political dissidents, to fabricate evidence that the hosts of and participants in the meetings to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre were supporting terrorist organizations, inciting violence or distributing child pornography,” the Justice Department said in a press release.

According to the Justice Department, Jin went to extreme measures to disrupt Chinese activists attempting to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre. 

“The fabricated evidence falsely asserted that the meetings included discussions of child abuse or exploitation, terrorism, racism or incitements to violence, and sometimes included screenshots of the purported participants’ user profiles featuring, for example, a masked person holding a flag resembling that of the Islamic State terrorist group,” it said in a press release. “Jin used the complaints as evidence to persuade [Zoom] executives based in the United States to terminate meetings and suspend or terminate the user accounts of the meeting hosts.”

The Tiananmen Square massacre occurred on June 4, 1989. It was a student led protest movement that was brutally suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and generated one of the 20th century’s most iconic videos as a tank rolled over a protestor in the square. The exact death toll isn’t known.

Activists wanted to commemorate the massacre’s 30th anniversary and had gathered on Zoom to do so. As the activists started organizing, they found their accounts had been suspended. 

“I demanded an answer from Zoom but so far they haven’t given me an answer,” human rights activist Lee Cheuk Yan told the Guardian in June. “It’s very unusual that a consumer can’t reopen their account. So the only explanation is that it’s politically motivated.”

According to the U.S. Justice department, it was—in fact—politically motivated. The 47-page indictment lists various schemes, plots, and collaborations with the Chinese Communist Party aimed at disrupting activists on Zoom. Jin allegedly worked with Zoom to give the CCP the personal information of the activists, even those who did not live in mainland China. 

According to the indictment, Jin sent repeated messages to Zoom’s executives accusing the dissident organizers of sharing “disgusting pics” of “child abuse,” as well as “inciting violence.” Follow-up investigations by Zoom failed to find proof of the alleged violence and child pornography in the meetings. 

Jin also allegedly attempted to tie the Chinese dissidents to the Islamic State. He sent screengrabs of a Zoom profile bearing the Islamic State’s flag to Zoom moderators, claiming the activists had changed their profile pictures to show support of ISIS. “That screen capture contained a [Zoom] identification intentionally marked out with what appeared to be a computer-generated black marker,” the indictment said. “Based upon my training and experience, the blacking out of information was designed to disguise the sender’s identity in order to conceal that the sender of the complaint was the user displaying the ISIS flag or another individual working with the complaint.”

According to the investigator’s best guess, Jin or someone working with him changed their own profile pic to the ISIS flag and sent it in as evidence of the dissidents radical intentions. It worked in the short term and Zoom deactivated the accounts tied to the activists. Jin now faces two conspiracy charges and, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 

Zoom said in an email it is reviewing the complaint but did not immediately have a comment.

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