An industry group representing the largest US internet companies has warned the Hong Kong government that changes to the city’s data protection law could affect the companies’ ability to provide services. company in the city.
The June 25 letter, setting out broad new rules created to limit doxxing – the intentional disclosure of an individual’s personal information – is the latest sign of the dilemma that facing tech companies in Hong Kong, where the government has introduced harsh new regulations to control what is said online.
Once a paradise of internet freedom on the doorstep of China’s tightly controlled internet, Hong Kong is home to offices and servers for many of the major internet companies. However, under recent national security legislation, the city faces a new digital reality in which the authorities have broad surveillance and censorship powers. That increasingly raises questions about the ability of major internet companies to continue operating.
The Singapore-based Asia Internet Alliance, which represents Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and other tech companies, warned in the letter that the new rules would “lead to a serious impact on the process.” and risks to freedom of speech and communication.”
The worry is that, according to the letter, generic words could give police the power to fine and arrest local employees if tech companies fail to meet the new doxxing rules.
The union wrote: “The only way to avoid these sanctions against technology companies is to refuse to invest in and provide their services in Hong Kong, thereby disenfranchising Hong Kong businesses and consumers. , while creating new barriers to trade.
In a statement, the Asian Internet Alliance said the letter reflects the views of the industry and not the policies or plans of any particular company. The Wall Street Journal first reported the existence of the letter.
Since the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, online speech debates have often focused on doxxing. After the police stopped wearing identification during the protests, a series of websites and channels were cropped to identify the police. Pro-police websites, in turn, publish information about protesters.
Authorities used national security laws to limit this activity. In January, the first known website to be taken down under the law posted personal information about police officers. Under the new rules, anyone who posts personal information for the purpose of harassment, intimidation or intimidation could face up to five years in prison and fines in excess of one hundred thousand dollars.
Doxxing is just one part of an ongoing proxy war over internet freedom in the city. Shortly after the law was enacted, Facebook, Google and Twitter all said they had suspended responding to data requests from the Hong Kong government. Last month, the city’s police invoked the law to take down a website calling for unity among expatriates in the pro-democracy movement.
Tiffany May contribution report.