In response, a letter by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which includes Twitter, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Apple as member companies, threatened to stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the region goes ahead with the expansion of the security law.
What proposed data laws?
- The Hong Kong government, along with the support from Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been discussing expanding the national security law (NSL) that took effect in the city in June of last year.
- The changes aren’t entirely known yet, but it appears as if doxxing will now be criminalized.
- Doxxing is when information about an individual or organization, such as their address, is made public involuntarily.
- Doxxing came under scrutiny after several police officers were targeted in doxxing attacks during protests in 2019, leading to some police officers’ home addresses and children’s schools being released online.
- The 2019 protests came in response to proposed legislation in Hong Kong that would allow people arrested in Hong Kong to be extradited to China.
- The demonstrations, at its peak, involved two million people out of the special autonomous region’s (SAR) population of seven million.
How did big tech respond?
- In response, a letter by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which includes Twitter, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Apple as member companies, threatened to stop offering their services in Hong Kong if the region goes ahead with the expansion of the security law.
- The letter explained that sanctions on individuals, as the expansion of the law would allow, “is not aligned with global norms and trends,” and that the only way for tech companies to avoid sanctions would be to leave Hong Kong altogether.
- What these sanctions entail isn’t really clear yet, but these companies are scared of is what it could potentially mean for their employees in Hong Kong and whether they might be held responsible for what the platforms’ users say and do.
- Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, responded by defending the amendment, saying that doxxing had “traumatized” a number of people in Hong Kong and adding that, “The proposed amendments to the law will address this problem.”
- Chinese state media Global Times, also pushed back against the criticism of the security law amendment made by the AIC, saying that similar restrictions have taken place in several countries globally and that to specifically target Hong Kong was a Western double-standard.
How does this impact Hong Kong?
- It’s important to understand that young people benefit the most from online platforms like social media.
- With the expansion of fin tech and the business tools available online, as well as the recent growth of remote work, the internet has been seen as a way for young people to escape unemployment.
- And countries that’ve had social media bans – such as Nigeria’s Twitter ban in June – have seen young people hurt the most by it, in part because people under 25 years old make up more than half of Nigeria’s population. In Nigeria, social media is an accessible way to solve local problems, help grow businesses as well as to access health resources.
- Having social media companies in a country also creates new jobs. For Nigeria, this meant watching Twitter set up operations nearby in Ghana, a country that Twitter called a supporter of free speech, online freedom and open internet.
- These factors, along with the increased barriers to trade, were pointed out in the AIC’s letter to the Hong Kong government as the potential consequences of social media platforms moving out of the territory.
- if these platforms were to leave the city, it would deprive “ … Hong Kong businesses and consumers, whilst also creating new barriers to trade," the letter wrote.
- What matters next for people is to see how the Hong Kong government chooses to add to the national security law and how the additions will affect day-to-day internet usage.
- The thing to watch will be exactly what gets put into the amendment for the national security law and if it’s enough for the companies represented by the AIC to pull out of Hong Kong.
- This comes during a time where the Chinese government is tightening their grip on China-based overseas listed companies. Most recently, Didi Global Inc. saw its shares fall 25% this week after their app was removed from the country’s mobile app store after it was found that the company had reportedly illegally collected users’ personal data.
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