TikTok hinders online freedom as security to exit Hong Kong market

TikTok hinders online freedom as security to exit Hong Kong market

A spokesman late Monday announced that the Chinese-owned video app TikTok will be leaving the Hong Kong market within a few days, while other tech companies, including Facebook, are postponing government requests for user data in the area.

China's Beitdance-owned short-form video app has decided to move Beijing out of the area after establishing comprehensive national security legislation for the semi-autonomous city.

In response to a Reuters question about its commitment to the market, a TicTok spokesperson said, "In view of recent events, we have decided to operate the TickTalk app in Hong Kong."

The company, run by former Walt Disney co-executive Kevin Meyer, has previously said the app's user data will not be stored in China.

TickTalk has previously stated that it will not comply with any request made by the Chinese government for content or access to Ticktock's user data and has never been asked to do so.

A small, damaging market for the Hong Kong-area company, a source familiar with the matter said. Last August, Ticktock said it had attracted 150,000 customers in Hong Kong.

According to analytics firm Sensor Tower, TickTalk has been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide since the first quarter of this year by the Apple and Google App Store.

The move comes amid uncertainty over whether Hong Kong will now be fully vested in Beijing in light of the new law, the sources said.

Tik Tok was designed so it would not reach mainland China. This is part of a strategy to attract more global audiences. Its counterpart on the mainland is called Doin.

Bite Dance spokesman said there are currently no plans to introduce Bait to the Hong Kong market.

'Serious concerns'

The move comes after US tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter halted government requests for user data in Hong Kong on Monday.

Facebook, which also includes WhatsApp and Instagram, said in a statement that it was suspending reviews of all its services. "Further evaluation of the National Security Act is pending."

Google and Twitter, which is a unit of Alphabet Inc., said last week it had suspended reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities shortly after the law went into effect.

Twitter cites "serious concerns" about the implications of the law.

Google said it was reviewing requests by the Hong Kong government to remove user-generated content from its services. While Twitter declined to comment, Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Social networks often place local restrictions on posts that violate local laws but do not have their own rules for acceptable speech. According to its transparency report, Facebook banned 394 such content in Hong Kong in the second half of 2019.

Tech companies have long operated independently in Hong Kong, the financial hub where the Internet is unaffected by firewalls in mainland China, which blocks Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

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