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Facebook will ‘pause’ responses to data requests from Hong Kong

Facebook and its WhatsApp messaging service, along with Twitter Inc., have suspended processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law-enforcement agencies following China’s imposition of a national-security law on the city.

Facebook typically works with law enforcement to follow local laws where the company operates but says it has paused sharing user data with Hong Kong authorities while it conducts a “human-rights” assessment. The pause applies to all Facebook properties, including its core social network, Instagram and WhatsApp.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the company was looking at the impact of the new law specifically focusing on “formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts.” Legal experts believe the new law doesn’t let Hong Kong fully block services or website, which China’s notorious “Great Firewall” does but Facebook’s refusal to comply with the law could certainly put the company at odds with the Chinese government.

Given that Hong Kong has long lived with an open and free internet, it’ll be worth seeing if any other companies follow suit with Facebook’s refusal to comply with the new regulation. It’ll also be significant to see how China’s responds to Facebook’s decision, particularly if other companies join Facebook and push back against the new law. Last year, Apple eventually complied with China’s demands for it to remove a Hong Kong protest-tracking app, a move that was criticized as the company bowing to governmental pressure. Whether Facebook will do an eventual about-face remains to be seen.

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