After the Indian government banned 59 apps owned by Chinese companies last week, the Zoom video conferencing app battles xenophobic rumors on social media that it is owned by Chinese. It is not – the company is American and tries to make it known to Indians.
In one blog post On Tuesday, Velchamy Sankarlingam, president of products and engineering at Zoom, attempted to dispel misinformation about Zoom’s country of origin. The company, he reminded people, is based in the United States.
“We recognize that, as we continue to enter the Indian market, there has been some confusion over the facts regarding Zoom. Some of the misconceptions are disheartening, especially those about Zoom and China. Zoom has been clear about its identity: Zoom is an American, NASDAQ-listed company founded and based in San Jose, California. And like many global technology companies, Zoom has offices in China managed by subsidiaries of the US parent company.
Sankarlingam’s post came days after India banned apps from Chinese companies, including TikTok, following border clashes between the countries. In the days leading up to the ban, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging app used by most Indians, was filled with messages urging Indian nationalists to uninstall apps owned by Chinese companies.
However, some of these posts incorrectly identified Zoom as a Chinese-owned app.
One of the advancements that went viral on WhatsApp was a list of 40 apps, including Zoom. “China earns millions of money a day from Above apps,” the post said, referring to an Indian monetary unit of measure. “You should uninstall these apps as soon as possible from your mobile and ask 10 friends and their friends to do the same. Accept the challenge! #Boycott China. “
Shortly after the ban, a glut of local competitors sprang up with their own versions of the restricted apps. Last week, Jio Platforms, the country’s largest telecommunications company, rushed its own video conferencing app called JioMeet, which has been criticized for being a Zoom scam.
Analysts say Zoom has been mistaken for a Chinese app due to the rapid spread of disinformation on social media, and also because its CEO Eric Yuan is of Chinese descent.
“The anti-Chinese sentiments prevailing in the country and the reach of social media among Indian consumers have formed a general perception that Zoom is a Chinese company,” said Prachir Singh, senior research analyst at Counterpoint. “The reason Zoom has clarified its origins is that it wants to expand its presence in India.”
This is a perception that Zoom is aggressively trying to change.
“There has been significant misinformation and glaring inaccuracies circulating on Zoom regarding China from various channels,” a Zoom spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “In India, we are proud to help businesses, government agencies, communities, educators and other users stay connected during this global health crisis.”
In the post written by Sankarlingam, who is American Indian, the company played on its “commitment to India” and talked about its Mumbai office as well as two Indian data centers. He also spoke about his plans to invest in India over the next five years and to recruit in the country.
“Three of Zoom’s senior executives are of Indian descent,” Sankarlingam wrote.
Additionally, the company bought promotional tweets on Twitter earlier this week to boost the reach of Sankarlingam’s post in India.
This isn’t the first time Zoom has struggled with an identity crisis. After security researchers found that Zoom routed some calls on the platform through servers in China in April, Yuan wrote a blog post highlighting both the company and its own American credentials.
“I would like to set the record straight here,” Yuan wrote. “I became a US citizen in July 2007. I’ve lived happily in America since 1997. Zoom is an American company, founded and based in California, incorporated in Delaware and listed on NASDAQ (ZM).”