TikTok has halted its operations in Hong Kong, days after the introduction of a new security law in the city. The app, owned by China's ByteDance, has been pulled down from both Apple's App Store and Google Play, according to a notice posted on the company's website. The new security law introduced by China restricts freedom on a number of things in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong, raising concerns of official oversight of social media.
TikTok is the first social media company to halt its services in Hong Kong, while others are also contemplating similar actions given that new security law allows authorities to police online content, and violating them could even lead to life imprisonment.
TikTok Avoids Further Trouble
The app hinted earlier this week that it could exit Hong Kong in the wake of the new security law that allows authorities to police and censor online content. It was removed from all app stores including Apple App Store and Google Play. Users who have already been using the short video app in Hong Kong could not use the app from Friday.
Those who tried to use the app saw a message that read: "Thank you for the time you've spent on TikTok and giving us the opportunity to bring a little bit of joy into your life! We regret to inform you that we have discontinued operating TikTok in Hong Kong."
Social Media Companies Feel Threatened
Under the new law, people found guilty of violation or subversion of the law could end up serving life sentences in jail. The new law also allows authorities to police online content including social media companies and tech firms to delete content if they fail to meet the guidelines of the legislation. Companies may also be fined for this.
TikTok has already been feeling the heat with US regulators accusing it of censoring content on its platform that may be used by China for spying on the United States. In fact, similar concerns have been raised by many countries lately, with India banning 58 China-based apps including TikTok last week. TikTok has always denied sharing users' information with Chinese authorities and has said that it would never do so.
TikTok's decision to halt services in Hong Kong comes amid these security concerns. Other social media giants like Facebook and Twitter said that they too are suspending requests for user data from Hong Kong law enforcement, as they review the new guidelines in detail.
The Chinese app was launched outside mainland China to reach out to a global audience. It then became hugely popular, and its popularity increased further during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the short video app has been under fire from the United States and several other countries since last year. The company has also been trying to distance itself from its Chinese parent in a bid to clean its image and recently hired an American CEO, Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive.