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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Internet giants such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are threatening to withdraw from Hong Kong

An association of companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook warns of the withdrawal of the Internet giants and their services from Hong Kong if data protection is tightened as planned.

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) has criticised the bill as being too vague and disproportionate, according to a letter from companies such as Google , Twitter and Facebook to Hong Kong’s Data Protection Commissioner Ada Chung Lai-ling, which was posted on the AIC website on Tuesday.

The controversy revolves around legislative plans the government is using to tackle “doxxing” – a type of cyber harassment in which private information is leaked online. During the 2019 protests, government opponents disclosed personal information about police officers or their families. This led to threats against those affected. The law could be passed this month by the constrained Hong Kong parliament.

According to the letter, the proposed law is too broad so that freedom of expression will be jeopardised. It is also “inappropriate and unnecessary” to prosecute local employees if their companies based abroad do not remove content from their platforms as required by the authorities. “The only way for tech companies to avoid these penalties would be to refrain from investing in Hong Kong and offering their services.”
The industry association shared “serious concerns” about doxxing, but stressed that laws against it “must be based on the principles of necessity and proportionality”. The proposed law lacks a definition of “doxing”, which creates a “problematic ambiguity”. It rightly gives rise to concern that the term is “interpreted excessively broadly”.

The debate takes place against the background of growing restrictions on political freedoms in China’s Special Administrative Region. A year ago, the Chinese leadership passed a controversial security law targeting activities that Beijing sees as subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial. The authorities are increasingly taking action against the democracy movement in the former British crown colony.
Prime Minister Carrie Lam downplayed concerns about the anti-doxing law. Every new law caused a stir, as did the security law. But the worries would dissipate over time, quoted the broadcaster RTHK. From the point of view of critics, the security law is clearly aimed at the opposition.

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The Internet association warned that in the future, even non-malicious dissemination of information online could be considered illegal. The law can also be used when, for example, someone reports incidents to the media that involve personal information.
In the discussion, lawyers pointed out that photos of a person or a police officer taken in public space could already be considered personal information worthy of protection, the dissemination of which on social media would then be illegal. Everything related to a person could be part of it in the narrower sense.

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