Google, Facebook and Twitter are pausing the processing of data requests from the Hong Kong government as they revise a new security law that went into effect on July 1. Google paused as soon as the law went into effect last Wednesday.
‘[W]When the law came into effect, we stopped production for new data requests from the Hong Kong authorities, ”said a Google spokesman The edge in an email “and we will continue to review the details of the new law,” said the spokesperson.
Twitter has also stopped processing government requests from July 1, with Facebook announcing its break on Monday, The New York Times reported.
Social media platforms typically produce information about private users in response to valid court orders, depending on the legal process in different countries. But under this new role, all companies will, at least temporarily, ignore requests from the Hong Kong government.
The new policy is in response to China’s new national security law in Hong Kong first proposed in May. Hong Kong has traditionally been significantly independent from mainland China, but the central Chinese government has tightened speech restrictions in Hong Kong in recent months, gradually phasing out the “one country, two systems” principle. China’s pursuit of greater control has led to widespread protests across Hong Kong, which started last year.
In particular, the new security law gives China the power limit political dissent against the Communist Party, making it illegal to participate in “secession, undermining, organization and conduct of terrorist activities, and collusive arrangements with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”. These powers are particularly relevant for social platforms, which may house the currently criminalized subversive activities.
The new security law has already forced several political opposition parties in Hong Kong to dissolve, NPR reported, and is expected to further ease the political disagreement against Beijing in Hong Kong.
“We believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear of their safety or other consequences,” said a Facebook spokesperson in an email to The edge.
Twitter says it is revising the new law to assess the implications, and that many terms in the new law are “vague and with no clear definition,” a spokesperson wrote in an email. The edge. “Like many public interest entities, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we are deeply concerned about both the development process and the full intent of this law.”
Facebook has a process of reviewing government requests, taking into account its own policies and local laws, as well as international human rights standards, the spokesperson added. “We are pausing the assessment of government requests for Hong Kong user data pending further review of national security law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultation with international human rights experts.”
Facebook has offices in China and uses Chinese suppliers to manufacture some of its hardware, including hers Oculus VR headsets and are Portal video chat devices. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has historically attempted to restore relations with China, while in 2016 he met with leaders of the Communist Party in Beijing for an economic forum. More recently, he has expressed concern that China is setting the conditions for online engagement. “If the platform of another country sets the rules,” Zuckerberg said last year, “our country’s discourse can be determined by a very different set of values.”