US tech giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Google are threatening to suspend services in Hong Kong if the city’s authorities implement planned changes to data protection laws. The new rules could make tech companies liable for malicious information sharing by individuals.
That writes the newspaper The Wall Street Journal based on a letter sent by companies united in the Asia Internet Coalition. The companies fear that the new rules to tackle so-called doxing could expose staff to the risk of criminal investigation or prosecution over what users post online. Doxing is the publication of personal data of an individual or organization with the aim that others can harass these people.
Hong Kong authorities proposed changes to the rules against doxing in May. Publishing personal data was common during the protests in the city in 2019. The new rules provide penalties of up to one million Hong Kong dollars, or more than 108,000 euros, and up to five years in prison.
In practice, the vague wording of the proposed changes could mean that the companies and their personnel could be criminally investigated and prosecuted on the spot for doxing by their users, according to the tech companies, who also oppose doxing.
The only way to avoid these sanctions for tech companies is to refrain from investing and providing services in Hong Kong, the letter authors said. Beijing’s increasing control over Hong Kong and cracking down on political dissidents has fueled tensions between some of the US’s most powerful corporations and the city-state authorities.
After China imposed the controversial security law, American companies were less inclined to honour Hong Kong authorities’ requests.