Facebook and WhatsApp have suspended user information requests from the Hong Kong government following a new law from mainland China.
The pause is in effect while the social network conducts ‘further assessment’ on the national security law that was imposed on the city of 7.5 million people. The new law bans acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
It has sent a wave of fear through Hong Kong’s citizens for criminalising dissenting opinions such as calls for independence. A Facebook spokesperson said it the company would undertake ‘formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.
The spokesperson said: ‘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.’
Digital rights group ProPrivacy called Facebook’s move ‘a win for both digital privacy and human rights in the region.’ ‘With the stakes so high, and the punishments so severe, it is great news to see big tech companies like WhatsApp pushing back in favor of democracy and freedom of expression,’ the group said. However it noted the move could lead to WhatsApp being blocked in Hong Kong as it has been in mainland China.