Tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter are threatening to leave Hong Kong over a proposed law that would criminalize doxxing, or the online sharing of identifying information.
The bill would prohibit individuals from “doxxing with the intent to threaten, intimidate, harass or cause psychological harm,” according to the South China Morning Post. Penalties include up to five years in prison and a fine of up to HK$1 million (US$128,765).
“The only way to avoid these sanctions for technology companies would be to refrain from investing and offering the services in Hong Kong,” the Asia Internet Coalition wrote in a letter to Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The tech companies are concerned that the bill would make them legally liable for user posts that may violate the law. If the companies are held liable for user posts, then their employees could be charged, fined, and imprisoned, according to WSJ. Google, Facebook, and Twitter reportedly have around 100 employees each in Hong Kong.
A letter sent by an industry group that includes the internet firms said companies are concerned that the planned rules to address doxing could put their staff at risk of criminal investigations or prosecutions related to what the firms’ users post online.
— Newley Purnell (@newley) July 5, 2021
The bill was recommended by the island’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in response to 2019 anti-Chinese government protests, when many Hong Kongers released police officers’ and government officials’ personal information. Those protests targeted a bill that would have allowed mainland China to extradite Hong Kong criminal suspects. (RELATED: Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Sentenced To Prison As Beijing Cracks Down On Protests)
Following the 2019 protests, China introduced a host of new bills to crack down on Hong Kong’s autonomous political system. A national security law passed in May 2020 allows Chinese security agencies to freely operate in Hong Kong, and an immigration law passed in April 2021 allows China to prevent people from leaving the city without permission.
Police shut down Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, in June by freezing its assets and arresting its top executives.