Facebook and WhatsApp announced Monday, July 6, 2020, its decision to temporarily halt government data requests for user information. The social network’s decision reportedly comes as the new national security law takes place in the country.
Among the considerations that the American tech giant would be making are reviewing human rights considerations, reveals the New York Times.
Apart from Facebook and WhatsApp, encrypted messaging application Telegram has also temporarily stopped its cooperation with law enforcement agencies until a consensus on the new law has been reached.
According to the New York Times, the American social media network’s decision is one of the first “rare public questioning of Chinese policy by a large American tech company.”
Besides the public questioning, Facebook’s decision also brings to light the possible implications of the new security law in Hong Kong, where the Internet and people’s freedom of speech are not censored, unlike the majority of China. This means that social networks and Internet access to sites such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are accessible to users.
The actions of these tech giants come a week after the Chinese parliament passed the national security act into law for Hong Kong.
The new law disclosed on June 30, 2020, has a provisional clause stating that foreigners who support Hong Kong’s call for independence face being prosecuted or even life imprisonment, reports the South China Morning Post.
Moreover, the bill also criminalizes acts of terrorism, subversion, and secession, which would thereby grant China a stricter control over the political dissent of the people against the Communist Party, notes The Verge.
WhatsApp took to voice its stand, saying it will be pausing 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 spokesperson of WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook followed suit, saying, “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”
“We have a global process for government requests, and in reviewing each individual request, we consider Facebook’s policies, local laws, and international human rights standards,” announced the Facebook spokesperson.
Twitter, Google, and other similar tech giants gave also taken a pause in production regarding catering to new data requests on user information from Hong Kong authorities.
The digital rights group, such as ProPrivacy, rejoiced over Facebook’s bold move towards supporting Hong Kong’s call, saying the decision is a “win for both digital privacy and human rights in the region.”