Science & Technology

Facebook, Twitter, Google halt user data requests from Hong Kong authorities

San Francisco, US, Jul 6 (efe-epa).- American multinationals Facebook, Twitter and Google announced Monday they were suspending requests from Hong Kong authorities for user data after a new national security law was imposed by Beijing on the territory.

The companies issued separate statements in which they said that they will “pause” the requests of the Hong Kong authorities “pending further assessment” of the controversial new regulations and whether they run contrary to human rights.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” said Facebook. The decision includes its messaging service WhatsApp and Instagram.

Twitter said that “(l)ike many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law.”

Google, the world’s most-used online search engine, reported that from last week it had put on hold requests from authorities while it reviewed the details of the new law.

Chat app Telegram told the local Hong Kong Free Press at the weekend it was doing the same.

“Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city,” Mike Ravdonikas of Telegram told HKFP.

The law, passed on June 30 and under which the first arrests have already been made, is seen by Hong Kong lawyers and activists as the possible end of the rights and freedoms enjoyed in the city compared to mainland China, although the local government insists that it will only affect an “extremely small minority” of people.

Among other things, the new regulations criminalize secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers and urges punishment of those acts that incite hatred against China and the government of the Communist Party.

Unlike on mainland China, where the internet is heavily censored and where Facebook, Google and Twitter are prohibited, social networks do operate in Hong Kong and, as in other countries, it is common for the police to ask for user data in the framework of their investigations.

It is these requests that Silicon Valley firms will stop responding to from now until their evaluation of the new national security law is complete. EFE-EPA

arc/tw

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