YouTube restricts access to Hong Kong protest anthem following court order banning song in the city

YouTube recently blocked access to videos of a protest song in Hong Kong, following a court-approved injunction banning the song in the city. The anthem, “Glory to Hong Kong,” became a symbol of the anti-government protests in 2019. YouTube complied with the removal order and blocked access to over 32 videos of the song that were deemed “prohibited publications” under the injunction.

Individuals in Hong Kong attempting to access the YouTube videos received a message stating, “This content is not available on this country domain due to a court order.” The court approved the government’s application to ban the song, citing concerns that it could be “weaponized” to incite secession.

In response to the court’s decision, YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc., expressed disappointment but stated they would comply with the removal order. They are considering options for an appeal to promote access to information and address concerns from human rights organizations about the ban’s impact on free expression online.

Links to the 32 banned videos on YouTube will not appear in Google search results for users in Hong Kong. George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at Asia Group, highlighted the importance of monitoring how aggressively Hong Kong authorities enforce the removal of the song from internet platforms. Chen emphasized the potential negative impact on investor confidence in Hong Kong if the government excessively orders platforms to remove content.

Critics have raised concerns about the ban on “Glory to Hong Kong,” arguing that it further restricts freedom of expression in Hong Kong. The prohibition comes in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown on the former British colony following the 2019 protests. Critics also warn that the ban could disrupt the operations of tech giants and diminish the city’s appeal as a business center.

It is vital for the government to consider unintended consequences and uphold the free flow of data and information in Hong Kong, especially given its status as a leading financial center. Monitoring the situation closely will be crucial to maintaining a balance between security concerns and preserving fundamental rights in the city.

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