Home Tech YouTube blocks videos with the anthem of the Hong Kong protests

YouTube blocks videos with the anthem of the Hong Kong protests

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YouTube blocks videos with the anthem of the Hong Kong protests

Alphabet’s YouTube said on Tuesday it would comply with a court ruling and block access within Hong Kong to 32 video links deemed banned content, in what critics say is a blow to freedoms in the financial hub amid clampdown. of security.

The move follows a government request granted by Hong Kong’s appeals court seeking a ban on a protest anthem called Glory to Hong Kong. The judges warned that dissidents seeking to incite secession could turn the song into a weapon to use against the state.

A spokesperson for YouTube, part of Alphabet, based in Mountain View in California, said geo-blocking of videos would take effect immediately for viewers in Hong Kong.

Eventually, links to the videos will no longer appear in Google Search in Hong Kong as the company’s systems process the changes, YouTube said. Attempts to view the song on YouTube from Hong Kong displayed the message: “This content is not available in this country’s domain due to a court order.”

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A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said stopping the song’s spread was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

In comments criticizing the court order, YouTube said the ruling would raise skepticism about the Hong Kong government’s work to foster the digital economy and regain its reputation as a predictable place to do business.

“We are disappointed by the Court’s decision, but we are complying with its takedown order,” YouTube said in a statement, saying it shared human rights groups’ concerns that banning content could curb free expression online. “We will continue to consider our appeal options to promote access to information.”

Some observers, including the US government, say the ban will further undermine Hong Kong’s international reputation as a financial center and raise concerns about the erosion of freedoms and its commitment to the free flow of information.

“It is not a desirable situation from the perspective of Internet freedom and freedom of expression,” said George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at Asia Group, a Washington, DC-based business policy consultancy. He is also the former head of public policy for Greater China in Meta.

“Now the question is how far and how aggressive the government wants to go,” Chen added. “If you start sending platforms 100 or 1,000 links for removal every day, this will drive the platforms crazy and will also make global investors more concerned about Hong Kong’s free market environment. How predictable and stable the political environment is is very important to foreign investors, and Hong Kong is now at a crossroads in defending its reputation.”

Industry groups including the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents big tech companies such as Meta, Apple and Google, have said maintaining a free and open Internet in Hong Kong is “critical” to maintaining the city’s advantage.

The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The action is not the first worldwide for the US technology sector or for Google parent Alphabet, which has restricted articles when required by law. In China it has also removed content. In 2010, Google pulled its search engine from mainland China, where YouTube is not available.

Hong Kong does not have an official anthem. Glory to Hong Kong was written in 2019 during widespread pro-democracy protests that year, and became an unofficial alternative anthem to the Chinese Volunteer March.

In recent years, Hong Kong officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for a broad national security crackdown on dissent that has led to the jailing of many opposition democrats and the closure of liberal media outlets and advocacy groups. civil society.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee that its freedoms would be preserved under the “one country, two systems” formula.

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