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YouTube Blocks Access to Protest Anthem in Hong Kong

YouTube Blocks Access to Protest Anthem in Hong Kong


YouTube mentioned on Tuesday that it will adjust to a courtroom order to dam customers in Hong Kong from viewing a well-liked democracy anthem, elevating issues about free speech and highlighting the growing fraught atmosphere for tech corporations working within the Chinese territory.

Last week, a Hong Kong courtroom granted a authorities request to ban the tune, “Glory to Hong Kong,” itemizing 32 hyperlinks to movies on YouTube. Judges mentioned the tune was a “weapon” that may very well be used to undermine nationwide safety.

The courtroom mentioned the injunction was “vital to influence” know-how corporations to “take away” the songs from their platforms.

A consultant of YouTube mentioned in an announcement that the corporate would “proceed to think about” an attraction of the courtroom’s ruling however would adjust to the order.

“We are disillusioned by the courtroom’s resolution however are complying with its removing order by blocking entry to the listed movies for viewers in Hong Kong,” the consultant mentioned.

Like most tech corporations, Google has a coverage of eradicating or limiting entry to materials that’s deemed unlawful by a courtroom in sure nations or locations.

Last 12 months, Google obtained 105 requests to take away content material from its platforms, together with YouTube, Google websites and its search service, based on the corporate’s transparency report. Six of these requests concerned what the authorities mentioned had been nationwide safety threats.

In May 2023, Google mentioned, it was requested to take away a Google Drive account that “appeared to encourage contributors to submit movies of themselves singing “Glory to Hong Kong.’” Google didn’t adjust to the request.

By blocking “Glory to Hong Kong” within the metropolis, hyperlinks to movies of the tune would additionally cease displaying up on Google search leads to Hong Kong, based on the corporate consultant.

Since demonstrations rocked the town in 2019, “Glory to Hong Kong” has been a flashpoint for the authorities who thought of it an insult to China’s nationwide anthem. The tune has been banned from Hong Kong colleges.

Beijing has asserted better management over the previous British colony lately by imposing a nationwide safety regulation that has crushed practically all types of dissent. People convicted of posting seditious content material on-line have gone to jail.

In March, the Hong Kong authorities enacted new safety laws that criminalized offenses like “exterior interference” and the theft of state secrets and techniques, creating potential dangers for multinational corporations working within the Asian monetary heart.

Compared to mainland China, the place the web is tightly surveilled and censored, Hong Kong was a relative bastion of freedom. Facebook and X have continued to function within the metropolis after they had been blocked from the mainland in 2009. In 2010, Google shut down its China providers and rerouted customers to its search engine in Hong Kong.

Lokman Tsui, a analysis fellow in Amsterdam with The Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog group, mentioned that the federal government was embarrassed by the recognition of “Glory to Hong Kong” and had gone to nice lengths to ban the tune.

“This injunction reveals that Hong Kong is open for enterprise however solely in case you are prepared to adjust to their requests for blatant political censorship,” he mentioned.

YouTube’s resolution raises questions on whether or not different platforms, similar to Facebook, Instagram and Spotify, could be topic to comparable pressures.

“After Google, the federal government will now start to deal with different platforms like Meta the place the protest songs will be additionally discovered on Meta’s Facebook and Instagram,” mentioned George Chen, a co-chair of digital apply on the Asia Group, a consulting agency in Washington. ”I consider different platforms might now think about YouTube’s resolution to geoblock as a great reference.”

Meta didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark. The Asia Internet Coalition, which represents Google and Meta amongst others, declined to touch upon its member corporations.

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