TikTok Is Latest Social Media Firm to Retreat From Hong Kong

Chinese social media platform TikTok joins a growing list of social media companies that plan to pull out of Hong Kong following China's National Security Law edict.
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Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok announced on Tuesday it plans to pull out of Hong Kong within days as global tech giants grapple with how to operate under sweeping new security rules imposed by China's parliament on the city.

Major U.S. internet companies including Facebook  (FB) - Get Report, Alphabet-owned Google  (GOOGL) - Get Report, Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Report, Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Report and even Zoom Video  (ZM) - Get Report have all announced they have suspended the processing of requests for user data from the Hong Kong authorities while they study the new law, according to Reuters.

While the U.S. companies’ social media platforms are generally banned in mainland China by the government’s “great firewall,” most have operated freely in the city-state of Hong Kong, which until recently has run relatively independently from Beijing.

That changed last week with the implementation of the National Security Law, which gives the Chinese government broad ability to impose mainland Chinese law on the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.

Hong Kong late on Monday published additional details about how the new law will strengthen police powers over the internet, including the ability to ask publishers to remove information deemed a threat to national security, according to Reuters.

Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, said in a statement on Monday it was pausing reviews of user data requests for all of its services “pending further assessment of the National Security Law.”

Google and Twitter said they had suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities immediately after the law went into effect last week. Zoom and Microsoft’s LinkedIn issued similar statements on Tuesday.

Apple  (AAPL) - Get Report said it does not receive requests for user content directly from Hong Kong, but requires authorities there to submit requests through the U.S. Department of Justice under a legal assistance treaty.

Tuesday’s announcement by TikTok of its plan to shut down its platform in Hong Kong is notable because the short-form video app is owned by a Chinese company but operates only outside of mainland China.

Its parent company, ByteDance, runs a separate, similar service inside China, while saying TikTok is intended to appeal to users worldwide. Its exit means Hong Kong users, like those in mainland China, will be cut off from the global version.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Washington was considering banning TikTok in the United States. Asked if Americans should download it, he told Fox News: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

TikTok responded with a statement noting it is "...led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product and public policy in the U.S.”