U.S. social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google, said that they will deny requests for user data by Hong Kong authorities, citing the Chinese Communist Party’s new national security law.
CCP officials on June 30 enacted the new law to crack down on dissidents in Hong Kong, undermining the city’s semi-autonomous status. The law allows authorities to request the publisher or host of an “electronic message” to remove that message if it endangers national security, the National Review reported.
In statements on Monday, July 6, Facebook said that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and it supports the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.
Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp said it has ceased the review of government requests to search residents’ data, “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”
Twitter also denied data requests from Hong Kong authorities, saying the company is studying the implications of the security law.
“Like 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,” Twitter said in a statement, adding that it is committed to protecting the people using its service and their freedom of expression.”
In its statement, Google confirmed that it has “paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities” after the CCP passed the national security law, and it will continue reviewing details of the new law.”
Hong Kong has long allowed free use of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, which are banned or heavily restricted in mainland China.
Though those social platforms have yet to be blocked in Hong Kong, their users have begun scrubbing their accounts and deleting pro-democracy posts out of fear of retribution, according to The Associated Press.
The CCP is expected to seize this opportunity to bring its social network services to Hong Kong and chase the U.S. providers out of the market as it did in the mainland.