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YouTube to Restrict Hong Kong Protest Anthem Videos Following Court Ruling

ByYasmeeta Oon

May 17, 2024
YouTube to Restrict Hong Kong Protest Anthem Videos Following Court Ruling

YouTube to Restrict Hong Kong Protest Anthem Videos Following Court Ruling

YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc., has agreed to block access to 32 video links within Hong Kong following a court order. Critics argue this move is a significant blow to freedom of expression amid a tightening security environment.

MOUNTAIN VIEW/HONG KONG, May 14 (Reuters) – Alphabet’s YouTube announced on Tuesday that it would comply with a Hong Kong court decision requiring the blocking of 32 video links deemed prohibited content. This decision follows a government application granted by Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal to ban a protest anthem called “Glory to Hong Kong.” The judges expressed concern that dissidents could use the song to incite secession against the state.

In response, YouTube issued a statement expressing disappointment with the court’s decision but confirmed compliance with the removal order. The platform emphasized its concerns about the impact on free expression online and hinted at the possibility of appealing the decision to promote access to information.

Critics, including the U.S. government, argue that the content ban further undermines Hong Kong’s international reputation as a financial hub. There are growing concerns about the erosion of freedoms and commitment to the free flow of information in the city.

George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at the Asia Group and former head of public policy for Greater China at Meta, stated, “It is not a desirable situation from the perspective of free internet and free speech. The question now is how far and how aggressive the government wants to go.”

Chen warned that if the government begins sending platforms hundreds or thousands of takedown requests daily, it could overwhelm the platforms and increase global investors’ concerns about Hong Kong’s free market environment. “How predictable and how stable the policy environment is matters a lot to foreign investors, and Hong Kong is now at a crossroads to defend its reputation,” Chen added.

Industry groups, including the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents major tech firms like Meta, Apple, and Google, emphasized the importance of a free and open internet in Hong Kong to maintain the city’s competitive edge.

The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The action is not unprecedented for the U.S. technology sector or Alphabet Inc., which has previously restricted content when legally mandated. In China, Alphabet has removed content under similar legal requirements.

A YouTube spokesperson stated that the geoblocking of videos would take effect immediately for viewers in Hong Kong. As Google’s systems process the changes, links to the videos will eventually disappear from Google Search results in Hong Kong. Currently, attempts to view the song on YouTube from Hong Kong display the message: “This content is not available on this country domain due to a court order.”

“Glory to Hong Kong” was written in 2019 during widespread pro-democracy protests. It became an unofficial alternative anthem to China’s “March of the Volunteers” and has been a symbol of the protest movement. Hong Kong does not have an official anthem.

In recent years, Hong Kong officials have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for a sweeping national security crackdown on dissent, leading to the jailing of many opposition democrats and the closure of liberal media outlets and civil society groups.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, which guaranteed the preservation of its freedoms.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the decision to stop the spread of “Glory to Hong Kong,” stating that it was necessary for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

  • Court Order: Hong Kong Court of Appeal granted a government application to ban “Glory to Hong Kong.”
  • YouTube’s Compliance: Alphabet’s YouTube will block access to 32 video links within Hong Kong.
  • Critics’ Concerns: Critics argue this move undermines freedom of expression and Hong Kong’s international reputation.
  • Industry Reactions: The Asia Internet Coalition emphasizes the importance of a free and open internet.
  • Global Precedents: Alphabet has previously complied with similar legal mandates in other countries.
May 14, 2024YouTube announces compliance with Hong Kong court order to block 32 video links.
2019“Glory to Hong Kong” written during pro-democracy protests.
1997Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule under the “one country, two systems” formula.
Recent YearsU.S. sanctions on Hong Kong officials amid national security crackdown.

YouTube’s decision to comply with the court order to block access to “Glory to Hong Kong” highlights the ongoing tension between government regulations and the free flow of information. As the digital economy evolves, the balance between security measures and preserving freedom of expression remains a critical issue for Hong Kong’s future

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Featured Image courtesy of Adweek

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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