US internet giants strike back at Hong Kong’s Doxxing law

An industry group representing America’s largest internet companies has warned the Hong Kong government that changes to the city’s data protection laws could impact the ability of businesses to provide services in the city.

The June 25 letter, which challenged new general rules created to combat doxxing – the targeted disclosure of individuals’ private information – was the latest sign of the dilemma facing tech companies in Hong Kong, where the government has created new strict rules to control what is said online.

Once a safe haven on the Internet at the gates of China’s tightly controlled Internet, Hong Kong is home to the offices and servers of many large Internet companies. Yet under a recent national security law, the city faces a new digital reality in which authorities have broad powers of surveillance and censorship. This has increasingly called into question the viability of the continued operations of large Internet companies.

The Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, which represents Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and other tech companies, warned in the letter that the new rules “would have a serious impact on due process and risks to freedom. expression and communication ”.

Of particular concern is the general wording that could give police the power to impose fines and arrest local employees if tech companies fail to meet new doxxing rules, according to the letter.

“The only way to avoid these sanctions for tech companies would be to refrain from investing and offering their services in Hong Kong, thereby depriving Hong Kong businesses and consumers, while also creating new barriers to the market. commerce, “the coalition wrote.

In a statement, the Asia Internet Coalition said the letter reflected the industry’s perspective, 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, the debate over online discourse has often focused on doxxing. After police stopped wearing identification markers during protests, a multitude of sites and channels appeared to identify them. Pro-police sites, in turn, published information about the protesters.

The authorities have already used the National Security Law to curb this practice. In January, the first website known to be shut down under the law posted personal information about police officers. Under the new rules, anyone posting personal information for the purpose of harassing, threatening or intimidating could face up to five years in prison and a fine of over $ 100,000.

Doxxing is only one part of an ongoing proxy struggle over Internet freedoms in the city. Shortly after the law was enacted, Facebook, Google and Twitter all said they had suspended responding to data requests from authorities in Hong Kong. Police in the city last month used the law to briefly suppress a website that called for the unity of Hong Kong expatriates in the pro-democracy movement.

Tiffany May contributed reports.

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