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Apple has not taken a firm stand against Beijing’s new national security law in Hong Kong like other U.S. tech firms. The company has not elaborated on its decision, but there’s no doubt the iPhone maker has more to lose than its peers in taking on Beijing.

On Tuesday, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Zoom, and Telegram, announced they will temporarily halt sharing data with the Hong Kong government a week after its national security law took effect. The decision puts the firms at odds with China’s central government, which foisted the law on the special administrative region in what critics see as an attempt to quell pro-democracy protests. Apple’s response, meanwhile, was less explicit; it told Bloomberg that it is still “assessing” the implications of the law. Apple did not respond to Fortune’s request for further clarification on its comments.

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Unlike Google, Facebook, and Twitter, whose flagship websites are banned on the mainland’s censored Internet, the mainland remains core to Apple’s business interests. Apple relies on the mainland to manufacture an overwhelming majority of its iPhones, computers, and other products, and some 75% of its suppliers have at least one production site in China. In February, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked on Fox Business if Apple’s supply chain is too reliant on China given the pandemic’s early disruption there. “My perspective sitting here today is that if there are changes, you’re talking about adjusting some knobs, not some sort of wholesale fundamental change,” Cook said.

Apple’s sales in the Greater China region—encompassing the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau—represent 14.8% of Apple’s overall revenue. In 2019, the Chinese market also made up 17% of the company’s profits, according to Apple’s financial statements. While the iPhone’s popularity in China has dimmed in recent years amid the rise of domestic competitors like Huawei and Xiaomi, the device remains the top-selling foreign smartphone in China and accounted for 8.5% of all smartphone sales in China in the first quarter of 2020, according to tech research firm Canalys.

“Whereas Facebook, Google, and Twitter are already banned, Apple heavily relies on China for both revenue streams and supply chains,” said Brock Silvers, chief investment officer of Adamas Asset Management in Hong Kong. “Apple has a great deal of risk in China… [and] is understandably lagging its tech peers in suspending data sharing arrangements with the Hong Kong government.”

Indeed, Apple has been a rare foreign tech firm to find success behind China’s Great Firewall. But that record now appears to be setting it apart from tech companies willing to stand up to Beijing when it comes to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong security law

The tech companies that immediately suspended data sharing with the Hong Kong government saw the provisions as a potential violation of privacy and human rights.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on its pause on reviewing Hong Kong government requests for user data.

An Apple store in Hong Kong. The tech giant’s reliance on sales in the Greater China region make it more susceptible than its peers to Beijing’s demands.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The tech firms’ decisions came after Hong Kong’s government announced rules for how it intends to carry out Beijing’s new national security law, which went into effect on June 30 and aims to target the four crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign actors. The new provisions provide broad powers for Beijing authorities to seize user data from Internet publishers and service providers and use it to prosecute those found in violation of the new law.

The wariness that tech firms harbor over the Hong Kong’s new law aligns with criticism of the law by U.S. and European governments.

In a tweet on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the law “draconian” and said the U.S. condemns the “Orwellian assaults on the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people.”

For major tech firms that don’t operate in mainland China, the move ultimately may risk their business in Hong Kong. But Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents represent a relatively small market for global companies, and tech firms likely would rather sacrifice business opportunities in the city than be seen by Western powers as subservient to Beijing.

“Facebook, Google and Twitter really don’t have much to lose” by taking a stand in Hong Kong, said Jeffrey Towson, a private equity investor in China and investment professor at Peking University in Beijing. “User data and privacy were already hot-button issues in U.S. politics relative to China… so it wasn’t surprising that these U.S. tech firms looked at user data and privacy first.”

In regards to sharing data, the new Hong Kong law is the first time Beijing authorities may be able to access user data from tech companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, for instance, has never received a request for data from China’s government because the mainland’s Internet blocks its 1.4 billion residents from accessing Facebook’s platform.

Meanwhile, Apple’s established mainland business means it already has mechanisms in place for processing user data requests from Beijing as well as from Hong Kong officials. From January through June of 2019, Apple approved 96% of 906 user data requests from the Chinese government and 91% of 358 requests from Hong Kong.

Siding with Beijing

Apple’s reticence to pause data sharing with Hong Kong is not the first time Apple has appeared to side with Beijing when it comes to the city.

Amid the protests that engulfed Hong Kong for much of 2019, app developers in Hong Kong created a tool for city residents to track the location of protesters and police via an app called HKmap.live.

The developers submitted the app to Apple in late September. Apple initially rejected the app, claiming that it encouraged illegal behavior. Apple then reversed the decision and released the app on its store on Oct. 4.

China Development Forum (CDF) 2018
Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook attends China Development Forum in Beijing in 2018. The company has come under fire in the U.S. in the past for appearing to capitulate to Beijing.
Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

In response, the China’s state-run newspaper penned an editorial on Oct. 9 accusing Apple of “helping Hong Kong rioters engage in more violence.” The following day, Apple removed the app from its store and in a statement said that the app had been “used to target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.” Google, on the other hand, decided to leave the HKmap.live app up on its play store.

Apple’s decision to take down the app drew the ire of U.S. lawmakers who wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook expressing deep concerns over Apple’s decision.

“Cases like these raise real concern about whether Apple and other large corporate entities will bow to growing Chinese demands rather than lose access to more than a billion Chinese consumers,” said the letter signed by lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D–N.Y.).

Amid Hong Kong’s new national security law, Apple is still firmly stuck between the demands of Beijing and its home market.

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The decision strikes down an Obama-era amendment allowing autodials by debt collectors.

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This story originally appeared on PC Mag

If there’s one thing that can unite Americans, it’s a disdain for robocalls. You can expect fewer autodials, though, since the Supreme Court this week struck down a 2015 law allowing automated messages by debt collectors.

Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), which generally prohibits robocalls to home and mobile phones. A recent amendment, however, allows pre-recorded messages to be made if collecting debts to the government—including student loan and mortgage balances.

The robocall restriction survived strict scrutiny because of the government’s “compelling interest in collecting debt,” according to this week’s Supreme Court decision. “Severing this relatively narrow exception to the broad robocall restriction fully cures the First Amendment unequal treatment problem and does not raise any other constitutional problems,” the ruling, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said.

This case began when the American Association of Political Consultants and three other organizations—which “make calls to citizens to discuss candidates and issues, solicit donations, conduct polls, and get out the vote”—filed a declaratory judgement against the U.S. Attorney General and FCC, claiming the 2015 law violates their First Amendment rights. Plaintiffs believe their outreach would be more effective and efficient, the court document said, if they could make robocalls. But, as they are not collecting government debt, the law prohibits it.

“As the government concedes, the robocall restriction with the government-debt exception cannot satisfy strict scrutiny,” the July 6 ruling said. “The government has not sufficiently justified the differentiation between government-debt collection speech and other important categories of robocall speech, such as political speech, issue advocacy, and the like.”

A majority of conservative justices—Kavanaugh, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, as well as liberal-leaning Sonia Sotomayor—agreed that the 2015 government-debt exception violates the First Amendment. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan, meanwhile, would have upheld the government-debt exception, “but given the contrary majority view, agreed that the provision is severable from the rest of the statute,” according to the decision.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who previously opposed the Obama Administration’s 2015 “carve-out” for federal debt collectors, praised Monday’s ruling: “I am glad to hear that Americans, who are sick and tired of unwanted robocalls, will now get the relief from federal-debt-collector robocalls they have long deserved,” he said in a statement.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel—often in opposition to Pai—also agreed with this week’s decision, tweeting that “robocalls are OUT OF CONTROL.” “Now let’s do something radical,” she added. “Let’s use it to finally stop these calls and the scams behind them.”

The FCC has been working to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing through policy initiativesenforcement actionspublic and private partnerships, and consumer education.

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TikTok is withdrawing its popular short video app from Google and Apple app stores in Hong Kong, a company spokesperson told Reuters late Monday.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd., will pull out of the Hong Kong market within days, and the app will be inoperable there. The announcement comes one week after the enactment of a controversial new national security law in Hong Kong that prompted a spate of technology companies to suspend some operations in the region while they review the new law.

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” the TikTok spokesperson said on Monday. A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to Fortune’s emailed request for comment.

Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Google, and Telegram have stopped processing user data requests from Hong Kong authorities while they review the national security law, and Apple said it is “assessing” the new law, which went into effect in Hong Kong on June 30.

The national security law is expected to give authorities in Hong Kong wide-ranging powers that analysts worry will curtail data privacy rights and online freedom there.

TikTok’s departure from Hong Kong—a small, unprofitable market for the app, according to Reuters—comes a week after its ban in India, which accounted for 30% of worldwide TikTok downloads in the first quarter of 2020.

India banned TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps last week after a violent border clash between Chinese and Indian military troops left 20 Indian soldiers dead. ByteDance may lose more than $6 billion as a result of the ban. The TikTok parent is the world’s most valuable startup, according to CB Insights; its investors include Sequoia Capital China, Softbank, and SIG Asia.

Several U.S. Congress members have criticized the app for allegedly storing user data on servers in China and for censoring content to comply with China’s censorship rules, charges that TikTok denied last year. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday that the U.S. is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps.

This story has been updated.

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  • Corporate Germany has a race problem—and a lack of data is not helping
  • If Ernst & Young auditors had done this one thing, they might have uncovered Wirecard’s $2 billion fraud years sooner
  • The insurance case that helped end the slave trade
  • Russia’s online censorship machine is no longer running smoothly
  • Wirecard shows auditing is broken. Here’s why—and how to fix it

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Congress has approved a bill rebuking China over its crackdown in Hong Kong amid protests against a strict “national security” law that outlaws so-called subversive or terrorist acts, as well as collusion with foreign forces intervening in the city’s affairs.

Critics say the new law effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy when it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The U.S. legislation would impose sanctions on groups that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, including police units that have cracked down on Hong Kong protesters, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing the new security law. The bill also imposes sanctions on banks that do business with entities found to violate the law.

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The Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure on Thursday, a day after the House approved it. It now goes to the White House.

Ahead of the Senate vote, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said no amount of pressure from external forces could “shake China’s determination and will to safeguard national sovereignty and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

He urged the U.S. to abide by international law and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, and not sign the sanction bill into law. If President Donald Trump signs the bill, “China will definitely take strong countermeasures, and all consequences will be borne by the U.S. side,” Zhao told reporters Thursday.

The White House declined to comment, but in a television interview Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence called the new Hong Kong security law a betrayal of the international agreement China signed.

“President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to be modifying our trading relationship and the trading status with regard to Hong Kong and we’re going to continue to speak out on behalf of the people of Hong Kong and on behalf of human rights of people within China,” Pence told CNBC.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said passage of the “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” makes it clear that the United States “will not stand by as China seeks to crush freedom, human rights and democracy in Hong Kong.”

The Chinese government “is already flagrantly using their new authorities to punish and imprison those who have stood up against the recent implementation of their sweeping national security law,” Van Hollen said. “Our legislation mandates severe consequences on those who participate in this unconscionable repression.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the bill’s other lead sponsor, urged Trump to sign it into law. “With our bill, the CCP will learn there are ramifications for repressing Hong Kongers’ freedom,” Toomey said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also praised the sanctions bill as “an urgently needed response to the cowardly Chinese government’s passage of its so-called national security law.”

Lawmakers from both parties have urged the Trump administration to take strong action in response to the crackdown by China against the former British territory, which was granted partial sovereignty under a treaty that took effect in 1997.

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  • The insurance case that helped end the slave trade
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China’s central government on Tuesday unanimously passed a National Security Law to be imposed in Hong Kong, according to multiple reports from local media, each citing unnamed sources. The measure moved forward despite widespread opposition from lawmakers and citizens in Hong Kong as well as foreign business groups and governments, notably the U.S.

Proponents say the law will bring “stability” to a city rocked by months of protests opposing Beijing’s heavy-handed influence in Hong Kong. Critics say the law—and the manner in which it was promulgated—is a death knell for the unique characteristics that made Hong Kong a thriving international hub for business.

Turnaround

Beijing has moved incredibly fast to pass the law, doing so in a little over a month. The central government announced it would impose a national security law for Hong Kong on May 21, during the first day of the Two Sessions, the annual meeting of China’s ‘rubber stamp’ parliament that announces targets and laws for the year ahead. A proposal for the law was filed on May 22 and approved by China’s parliament on May 28.

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In Hong Kong, Beijing’s announcement came as a surprise. Under Basic Law—the mini constitution that defines Hong Kong’s status as a Special Administrative Region—Hong Kong is supposed to create and implement a national security law by itself. The local government attempted to do so in 2003, but the measure was shelved after months of questioning by lawmakers and a massive street protest.

Beijing’s promulgation of the new law has sidestepped Hong Kong’s legislative process. Central authorities have even expedited their own approval process to fast-track the law. Laws need to be reviewed twice by China’s top legislative body, the NPCSC, in order to pass. The NPCSC normally meets once every two months but met twice in June—once on June 20 and again on June 28—to give the national security law its due process. The expedited timeline ensured the law would go into effect before Hong Kong’s local elections in September that could have swept pro-democracy lawmakers into office.

Official approval

According to the Basic Law, Beijing must consult Hong Kong’s leadership throughout the process of promulgation, but Hong Kong’s top lawmakers—despite supporting the law—have admitted to not knowing any details of the bill beyond those aired by Chinese state media.

China Holds Annual Two Sessions Meetings Amidst Global Coronavirus Pandemic
Chinese President Xi Jinping appears on a large screen in Beijing showing the evening news during a session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People on May 25, 2020. Beijing introduced the Hong Kong security law during the meeting of its ‘rubber stamp’ parliament last month.
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Broadly, Beijing let it be known that the national security law would target sedition, terrorism, and acts of foreign interreference—later changed to prohibit “collusion with foreign forces.”

Despite not knowing details, Hong Kong officials loyal to Beijing have openly declared support for the bill. The Hong Kong government also spent $900,000 to advertise the impending law, plastering buses, billboards, trams, and escalator walls with adverts that simply read, “National Security Law. Preserve One Country, Two Systems. Restore Stability.”

Risky business

Hong Kong’s independent judiciary is often cited as a key factor in Hong Kong’s development as a hub for international business. Opponents of the national security law say Beijing’s refusal to consult local lawmakers on the process has undermined the local courts, creating an uncertainty that poses a major risk to business.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong warned on May 22 that Beijing’s move to “bypass the Hong Kong legislative process to enact a Hong Kong security law may jeopardize future prospects for international business.” Yet the business group later released a survey that showed 70% of respondents planned to keep their business in Hong Kong, despite the impending new law.

A protester surveys the crowd as demonstrators march through
A protester surveys the crowd of demonstrators in Hong Kong last year. Critics see Beijing’s new security law as an attempt to quiet the unrest that has rocked the city for over a year.
Aidan Marzo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Businesses with major operations in mainland China have voiced support for the new law. On June 3, HSBC Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Wong signed a petition supporting the law after former Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung publicly criticized the bank for remaining quiet on the issue.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing’s “browbeating” of HSBC was “a cautionary tale” for other companies that rely on China’s market. The White House has been vocal in its opposition to the law and the U.S. State Department determined in May that Hong Kong can no longer be considered a separate economic entity from mainland China, due to Beijing’s promulgation of the law.

Days later, President Donald Trump ordered his administration to “revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.” The action could result in Washington imposing tariffs—like those imposed on China during the trade war—on Hong Kong exports while limiting the city’s free access to the U.S. dollar. Another consequence: on Monday the U.S. halted exports of sensitive technology to Hong Kong.

Handover

In negotiations with Britain over the return of Hong Kong in the 1980s, Beijing pledged the city’s “way of life” would remain unchanged for 50 years. The national security law is due to go into effect on Wednesday, July 1—the 23-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

Police have denied permission for a march in protest of the national security law to be held in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Organizers have said they will hold the demonstration anyway. Those involved could be the first in Hong Kong to be in violation of the new national security law.

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The decision will have wide-ranging impacts on all entrepreneurs and workers.

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This story originally appeared on Business Insider

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision on Monday that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ individuals, delivering a striking blow to the Trump administration, which argued it did not encompass such protections.

Title VII protects employees from facing discrimination from their employer on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

In writing the majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the decision to protect employees LGBTQ employees stems from Title VII’s existing protections on sex.

“The answer is clear,” he wrote in the majority opinion.

He continued: “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

Chief Justice John Roberts — a Bush-appointed conservative — joined with the majority decision, along with the court’s four liberals: Justices Elena Kagan, Sonya Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and the Trump-appointed Brett Kavanaugh wrote dissenting opinions.

The Supreme Court webpage for the ruling went down immediately after it was published, rendering many people unable to access it.

Related: YouTube Pledges $100M to Support Black Creators

The ruling centered on three separate cases where a longtime employee had been fired shortly after they came out as homosexual or transgender in their workplace. Gerald Bostock was as a child-welfare advocate for a decade in Clayton County, Georgia, and was fired over conduct “unbecoming” of a county employee after he joined a gay recreational softball team.

Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor in New York, was fired days after he came out as gay. Aimee Stephens, who worked at a funeral home in Michigan, was fired after she began to present as female at work after being hired and working there when she presented as male. Stephens died in MayZarda died in 2014.

The Monday decision serves as a blow to the Trump administration, which has argued since 2017 that the existing statute did not protect individuals from employment discrimination based on their identifying as homosexual or transgender.

The landmark decision also marks the biggest win for the LGBT community since the court ruled in 2015 in a 5-4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment required all states to grant and recognize same-sex marriages.

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