A former Zoom employee is wanted by the FBI for his alleged participation in a scheme to censor meetings on behalf of the Chinese government.
Xinjiang “Julien” Jin and co-conspirators allegedly terminated at least four video meetings commemorating the thirty-first anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in June. Most of of the meetings were organized and attended by US participants, some of whom were dissidents who had participated in and survived the 1989 protests, court documents show.
Zoom is not named in the complaint but sources familiar with the investigation identified the company as Zoom. The company confirmed that Jin was a former employee based in China.
“We learned during the course of our investigation that the China-based former employee charged today violated Zoom’s policies by, among other things, attempting to circumvent certain internal access controls,” Zoom said in a statement. “We also learned that this former employee took actions resulting in the termination of several meetings and accounts, and shared or directed the sharing of a limited amount of individual user data with Chinese authorities.”
Zoom said it “terminated” the employee for violating company policies and has “placed other employees on administrative leave pending the completion of our investigation.”
Jin, 39, is charged with conspiracy to commit interstate harassment and unlawful conspiracy to transfer a means of identification, according to a complaint filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Jin proactively monitored videoconferences covering political and religious subjects unacceptable to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government since January 2019, the complaint says.
He also used fake identification and lodged false complaints against the users of the platform to justify terminating meetings and user accounts, according to the complaint.
Jin allegedly fabricated reports to company superiors that the users speaking against the Chinese government were supporting terrorist organizations, inciting violence and distributing child pornography, the complaint says.
The Chinese government used information from Jin to retaliate and intimidate the users and their family members who lived in the country, the complaint alleges.
“Jin willingly committed crimes, and sought to mislead others at the company, to help PRC authorities censor and punish U.S. users’ core political speech merely for exercising their rights to free expression. The charges announced today make clear that employees working in the PRC for U.S. technology companies make those companies—and their users—vulnerable to the malign influence of the PRC government,” Acting United States Attorney Seth DuCharme said in a press release.
Jin is known to be in China’s Zhejiang Province and is not in US custody according to the US Attorney’s office.
A federal arrest warrant was issued for Jin on November 19, 2020.