Platforms, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have announced the suspension of processing of Hong Kong government requests for user data on Monday following China’s establishment of sweeping new national security law for semi-autonomous city. The tech giants give substantial importance to the privacy of a user’s data.
Facebook stated that it would be pausing reviews for all its services, including WhatsApp and Instagram, “pending further assessment of the National Security Law” (1). Google and Twitter stated that they suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities as well, immediately after the law went into effect the previous week.
Google said that it would be continuing to review Hong Kong government requests for removals of user-generated content from its services.
Twitter summoned ‘grave concerns’ about the implications of the law while declining to comment.
Social networks like Facebook often apply restrictions to posts according to the local laws but, however, do not alter their own rules for acceptable speech.
According to Facebook’s transparency report, it restricted over 394 such pieces of content in Hong Kong in 2019.
Bad news for Hong Kong’s Tik Tok
Tech companies have been operating freely in Hong Kong, which is regarded as a financial hub where internet access is not restricted by the firewall imposed in mainland China, which blocks the usage of Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
Tik Tok, the popular short video content based platform owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, announced that it would be discontinuing the app from the Hong Kong market as it has been a loss-making market for the company. Tik Tok’s strategy to appeal to a global audience could not work out with Hong Kong.
Last week China’s parliament passed the national security legislation, which brought the most radical changes to the former British colony’s lifestyle in Hong Kong. On Monday, Hong Kong published further details on how the new law would help in strengthening police powers online, which include the ability to get the information that might be considered a threat to national security removed. The refusal to remove such content by the publisher would result in hefty fines or jail.
Despite being a controversial topic, especially questioning media freedom, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that the time and facts would display that the law would not undermine human rights and freedom.
Apple stated that it did not receive any requests of user content from the Hong Kong government directly.
Many people shared their concerns regarding the law, saying that it won’t be safe anymore if the government actually does this. Richard Lai, a former medical worker, stated that he would continue to use social media but won’t post anything.