Facebook, Google, and Twitter revealed that they would be blocking Hong Kong’s authorities from accessing user data after sweeping new security laws stifling political dissent were announced at the starting of this month. The tech giants revealed that they were still assessing the laws, which threatens jail terms against companies that do not comply. The decision by US social media giants marks a rare public display of concern towards Chinese policy.
New laws could be used to curb dissent in Hong Kong.
The new laws in Hong Kong ban “separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference,” and require all social media networks to remove content that the authorities deem illegal and comply with their decryption requests. However, experts fear that these laws could be used to curb down on the dissent in Hong Kong, which, up until now, has mostly tolerated public protests. The encrypted messaging giant Telegram, taking protesters’ side in Hong Kong announced that it would not cooperate with authorities’ requests. Telegram witnessed users quadruple at the height of the Hong Kong protests, according to Sensor Tower data.
Social media platforms come together to support citizens’ rights.
The political turmoil in Hong Kong has left citizens protesting for freedom and their democracy. Experts believe that the common stance presented by the tech companies could make it harder for Beijing to impose its will, but Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at security specialist firm ProPrivacy, warned of the danger of even more severe censorship by the Chinese authorities. Tech giants Apple and Microsoft are yet to reveal their policies towards the new laws. According to news reports, since the security laws were announced, social media users in Hong Kong have been rushing to alter their digital footprints or remove their presence entirely from social media platforms.