Surge in web posts taken down by Hong Kong police sparks censorship fears

Hong Kong Transparency Report was quoted in South China Morning Post last Sunday to explain what the recent surge in police's take-down requests of online posts means for the city's free speech.

Hong Kong Transparency Report was quoted in South China Morning Post last Sunday to explain what the recent surge in police’s take-down requests of online posts means for the city’s free speech.

A dramatic surge in the number of online posts destroyed by the Hong Kong police in recent months has fuelled fears of internet censorship and abuse of power.

Figures released last week showed that the force “requested” the removal of more online content in the past four months than in the previous four years combined.

The surge in figures coincided with the student-led Occupy Central movement, which typically used social media and online forums to organise events and demonstrations.

“It’s highly possible that police are abusing their law enforcement power to conduct online censorship,” said Jennifer Zhang, a researcher with the Hong Kong Transparency Report at the University of Hong Kong.

“There’s a great lack of transparency here. In fact, according to a few forums I’ve been talking to, police often ‘order’ them to take down users’ posts by phone or email,” Zhang said.

“It is a controversial area of law enforcement. There has to be a balance between criminal prevention and freedom of speech, and that decision should not be made by the police alone,” Zhang said.

Another area of contention is police requests for online user information, such as email and IP addresses. Last year, there were 4,234 such cases.

“Again, there’s no clear legal regulation, independent oversight or user notification in place,” Zhang said.

“The only law that protects user privacy, the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, is very vague in this regard. It allows police to request user information from service providers for a very simple and general ‘criminal prevention’ purpose,” she added.

For the full interview, please refer to the original story here.

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