By Ai Jun Source:Global Times
Logos of Twitter and Facebook. Photo: IC
Some US tech giants, although claiming they are “global” companies providing a level playing field for civic discussions, have once again proven, by their own actions, that they are, in nature, tools of US political interests. That Google, Facebook and Twitter, among other tech firms, pause their processing requests for user data from Hong Kong law-enforcement agencies is the smoking gun.
The move is said to be a response to the implementation rules of the national security law for Hong Kong, which said that if the commissioner of police has reasonable grounds to suspect that an online message is likely to endanger national security, he may ask the relevant message publisher, platform, host and network services provider to remove the message and restrict access to it.
Obviously, US tech companies showed no interest in the part that could “endanger national security,” under the excuse of so-called freedom of speech, just as a Facebook spokeswoman said in a Monday statement, “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”
What exactly is freedom of expression? In 2019, Facebook and Twitter suspended hundreds of so-called China-backed propaganda accounts, which mostly posted evidence of how radical rioters in Hong Kong had damaged the city while showing support for local police. Does blocking that kind of information justify their so-called freedom of expression?
During Hong Kong’s violent riots in 2019, the police in the city launched hotlines on WhatsApp, a messaging service platform under Facebook, in an attempt to collect information about radical rioters. Yet Facebook stepped in and cut off the hotlines less than 72 hours after their launch, a move which could be argued as indulging in violence.
These companies not only encouraged radical protesters’ illegal moves through these tactics during the unrest, but also chose to pile pressure on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government by refusing to process user information requests when a relevant law is enacted against violence.
It is thus crystal clear what exactly the US version of freedom of speech is – Condemning rioters and supporting police is definitely not, but extremists expressing their anger by attacking others and damaging public property are. So, US tech companies do have a bottom line on freedom of expression – It must accord with US national interests and ideology.
About 10 years ago, some US diplomats made clear about using online tools to spread American-style democracy worldwide, help organize protests and even launch color revolutions overseas.
Since then, be it suspending requests for user data from Hong Kong or shutting down accounts from the Chinese mainland, the moves are a continuation of the US approach. Although Twitter and Facebook are privately owned, US elites are binding them to US national interests forcefully and are sending an explicit signal: These platforms are destined to become conduits of Washington’s interests.
More proof can be found after reports unveiled that Facebook noted government demands for user data were at a record high by November 2019, and that the US government led the way with the most number of requests.
In 2017, a Senate hearing over Russiagate in the US raised a concerning question for Washington: Are Facebook, Twitter, and Google American companies? Senator Tom Cotton tossed out a sharp question: Will the companies apply the same policy to our intelligence community that you’d apply to an adversary’s intelligence service? The answer he received is, “As a global company… We’re trying to be unbiased around the world.”
US tech companies refused to admit their technology and platforms had already become a tool for Washington’s surveillance and online manipulation. But their moves have given it away. The US tech titans have been completely politicized. This is a collusion of US geopolitical games.