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.
With coronavirus cases continuing to rise across the U.S., Bill Gates has partly laid the blame on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, saying they can do better at curbing the spread of misinformation about the virus.
“Can the social media companies be more helpful on these issues?” Gates said during an interview with Fast Company. “What creativity do we have? Sadly, the digital tools probably have been a net contributor to spreading what I consider crazy ideas.”
Fox News has reached out to Facebook and Twitter with a request for comment.
BILL GATES: I WARNED TRUMP DURING PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION ABOUT PANDEMIC RISK
Gates touched on a number of other subjects at the virtual conference, including people not wearing masks, which he described as “hard to understand.”
“It’s not expensive, and yet some people feel it’s a sign of freedom or something, despite risk of infecting other people,” the 64-year-old Gates said.
Despite Gates’ criticism, Facebook, in particular, has taken several steps in an effort to aid researchers trying to fight the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the company said in a blog post that Facebook and Instagram users would see an alert to remind them to wear face coverings.
In March, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter deleted social media posts from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after the platforms deemed they were spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19.
Separately in March, Facebook announced tips on how to spot fake news to its more than 2 billion users.
In April, the company said it would warn users if they have “liked, reacted or commented” on content that has been deemed “harmful” and removed by the tech giant and send them to information provided by the World Health Organization.
Also in April, Facebook and Fox News teamed up for a coronavirus town hall with White House coronavirus task force members Dr. Deborah Birx and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams that let users ask questions about the pandemic.
Facebook also said in April that it would start to ask some of its U.S.-based users about their health in an effort to give researchers more information about self-reported COVID-19 patients.
Gates, who is worth some $109 billion, according to Forbes, has focused nearly all of his energy on public health responses since he announced in March he was stepping down from the board of directors of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on philanthropy.
In late April, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give an additional $150 million to fight COVID-19, bringing its total contribution to $250 million. Some of the funds will go toward the World Health Organization, a frequent target of Trump for its response during the coronavirus pandemic.
After President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO, Gates slammed the move, saying it “is as dangerous as it sounds.”
BILL GATES SAYS US MISSED CHANCE TO AVOID CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN, BUSINESSES SHOULD STAY CLOSED
The Microsoft co-founder also recently laid out a plan on how to reopen the U.S. economy, citing concerns the virus will cost the global economy “tens of trillions of dollars.”
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In May, Melinda Gates said the U.S. is “lacking leadership at the federal level,” which she said is “costing people their lives.”
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As of Thursday morning, more than 10.7 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 2.68 million of which are in the U.S.
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