As Hong Kong grapples with a draconian new security law, the tiny territory is emerging as the front line in a global fight between the United States and China over censorship, surveillance and the future of the internet.
Long a bastion of online freedom on the digital border of China’s tightly managed internet, Hong Kong’s uneasy status changed radically in just a week. The new law mandates police censorship and covert digital surveillance, rules that can be applied to online speech across the world.
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Internet Powers Collide in Hong Kong: Tech giants suspend handing over information to Hong Kong, setting up a collision with China.
Here we are again, facing a collision between America’s online superpowers and China.
My colleague Paul Mozur wrote about Facebook, Google, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Twitter and some other digital companies’ saying they would temporarily stop handing over people’s information when the Hong Kong authorities ask for it.
The companies were responding to a vaguely worded new law that civil liberties advocates worry would extend China’s internet censorship and digital surveillance to Hong Kong, which has long been a bastion of online freedom. If companies go along with the new law, the fear is that someone in Hong Kong could be jailed for a tweet. If they don’t comply, their employees could go to jail.