Back at the end of June, the Chinese government passed a new national security law that directly affects Hong Kong; a law that legal experts believe will now give the Special Administrative Region (SAR)’s law enforcement power to moderate online content as they please.
In light of the law, Facebook’s WhatsApp announced that it would pause all requests for its users’ data by Hong Kong authorities, at least until it has fully reviewed China’ new regulation. In a response to the WSJ, WhatsApp said that its review will be focused on the “formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human right experts”.
Unlike the rest of China, the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and former British colony is not subject to the economic powerhouse’s “Great Firewall” and has both freely and openly enjoyed its access to an unsuppressed flow of information via the internet.
As mentioned, WhatsApp isn’t the only tech company that is putting a hold on user data requests from Hong Kong; Google, Twitter, and even WhatsApp’s direct rival, Telegram, had also announced that it was doing the same, the latter explaining that doing so at this stage would be a breach of privacy to its Hong Kong users.
To date, only one company has caved in to China’s demands on user security; when the protests in Hong Kong were in full swing last year, Apple was coerced into accepting China’s demands to remove protest-tracking app. A move that undoubtedly drew ire from its throngs of consumers within the island city.
Needless to say, it’s likely that WhatsApp’s decision – among other messaging services – will not sit well with the Chinese government, and could soon find itself under scrutiny by the country.