Twitter Joins Facebook, Telegram In Denying User Data To Hong Kong Police

Twitter Joins Facebook, Telegram In Denying User Data To Hong Kong Police

by Tyler DurdenMon, 07/06/2020 - 12:21

Update (1220ET): Twitter has joined Facebook and Telegram in standing up to the CCP, and running the risk of incurring the wrath of Beijing.

"Undesirable entities" list, here we come.

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While corporate advertisers cut ties with Facebook over CEO Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to kowtow to American SJWs urging the company to step up its policing of 'hate speech' and conservative political thought, Facebook is suspending its processing of all requests from Hong Kong law enforcement for information made in accordance with the new National Security law recently enacted by Beijing.

Whatsapp and Facebook are "pausing" all such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts," a WhatsApp spokeswoman told the WSJ.

In the week since President Xi signed the law into effect, protesters who took to HK's streets in defiance are already being arrested and prosecuted under the law, which makes carrying pro-democracy or pro-independence 'signage', including the Hong Kong independence flag, a fixture at Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests last year.

While politicians, including many Republicans, have spoken out, American companies have been mostly silent on Hong Kong, probably fearing retaliation from the Chinese elite, who control access to the lucrative Chinese market. Facebook is the first social media company to implement such a brazen policy.

Reports emerged in WSJ earlier this morning that Facebook-owned Whatsapp, which is extremely popular in Hong Kong, would stop processing the requests. Facebook soon confirmed that the policy would be implemented company wide.

Facebook isn't the only company taking such an inhospitable stance toward Beijing's demands. Telegram, another popular messaging app, that, like Whatsapp, uses end-to-end encryption, is also refusing the process the nat sec law requests.

As 9to5Mac points out, both Telegram and Whatsapp are popular among protesters, who use them to organize and plan rallies. Since both apps use the end-to-end encryption, they wouldn't even be able to hand over data on message content, since it's not accessible even to them. But the fear is that Chinese authorities might infiltrate messaging groups used by protestors, and then seek information on the account holders.

NYT's (now former) Beijing bureau chief Paul Mozur, who was among the American journalists booted from the country earlier this year, explained in a series of tweets how the decision to not comply is effectively resisting Beijing's attempts to expand its "Great Firewall" to Hong Kong.

Just in, WhatsApp "pausing" reviews of law enforcement requests in Hong Kong until an assessment including human rights consultations of the new realities brought by the National Security Law. We're in unprecedented territory with the law, tech cos very much caught in the middle.

Here's a part of the statement: "We will pause reviewing law enforcement requests for WhatsApp user data from the HK government pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence+consultations with HR experts."

Telegram made a similar call today too. The back and forth over this will begin to chart a path for the future of Hong Kong's internet under the national security law. It may well be internet cos. decide to treat HK requests as they would China ones. Which would be a big change.

We'll see if Facebook more broadly follows WhatsApp's lead on this. Also uncertain is Google and Twitter. Beijing will make firms pay if they don't comply w/ the nat sec law. Feels like a first salvo in a dispute that could eventually lead to something like a Great Firewall in HK

Of course, whether they are successful will depend, as Mozur points out, on whether Google, Twitter and other American tech giants decide to follow suit.


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