preloader image

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.

More must-read international coverage from Fortune:

  • 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

Business Achievement Awards

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.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alonside Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alonside Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
(Fox News/Getty Images)

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.”

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE  CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE 

In May, Melinda Gates said the U.S. is “lacking leadership at the federal level,” which she said is “costing people their lives.”

GET THE FOX NEWS APP

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.

Business Achievement Awards

The chorus of voices in unison with #StopHateForProfit swells; Facebook does damage control amidst falling shares.

Free Book Preview No BS Guide to Direct Response Social Media Marketing

The ultimate guide to – producing measurable, monetizable results with social media marketing.


2 min read


It has not been a great week for Facebook, but it’s not the only target of the Anti-Defamation League’s insurgent #StopHateForProfit social media campaign. Twitter has likewise taken its lumps as corporations — either out of conscience or calculation — ranging from consumer-goods giant Unilever to workout-apparel manufacturers Lululemon and ice-cream iconoclasts Ben & Jerry’s (see “Related” link below) beg off placing ads on social media sites until they take a definitive zero-tolerance stand against entities and individuals who use the platforms as megaphones for hateful and often falsified rhetoric. 

But Facebook has been the primary target, perhaps because Twitter has been viewed as a bit more assertive in moderating its more provocative content and exiling abusers of late. Or, possibly, because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to function as an avatar for the tech world’s historically laissez-faire approach to policing open forums. 

This past weekend was a bit of a bloodbath for the social media giants, as the likes of Starbucks (which has had to do a bit of its own image repair after returning a massive government-stimulus loan), Coca-Cola and global spirits titan Diageo all announced pauses on their social media ad-spend. (Though, somewhat significantly, none of those three companies chose to align themselves explicitly with #StopHateForProfit.)

Related: Ben & Jerry’s Joins Facebook and Instagram Boycott, Pushes for Transgender Rights

On Saturday, Facebook took the rare and prompt action of rolling out new warning labels and guidelines concerning hate speech and misinformation, although — like Twitter — it maintains that even inflammatory posts from figures like President Trump are newsworthy. 

Alas, that hasn’t helped the company’s valuation from taking a hit. Per Marketwatch, Facebook shares fell 2 percent ahead of open trading this morning (Twitter’s were down nearly 2.5 percent). 

Here is a complete list of companies specifically participating in #StopHateForProfit.

Business Achievement Awards

© 2020 Fortune Media IP Limited. All Rights Reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy (Your California Privacy Rights) | CCPA Do Not Sell My Information | Ad Choices 
FORTUNE is a trademark of Fortune Media IP Limited, registered in the U.S. and other countries. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.
Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: http://www.djindexes.com/mdsidx/html/tandc/indexestandcs.html.
S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions. | EU Data Subject Requests

Business Achievement Awards

Twitter has removed over 170,000 accounts linked to China that were engaged in “a range of manipulative and coordinated” activities around issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and Hong Kong.

In a blog post, Twitter explained that 23,750 accounts comprised the “highly engaged” core of the network. Another 150,000 accounts were “amplifiers” designed to boost the content.

“They were tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong,” explained Twitter in its blog post.

Hong Kong, which is a Chinese special administrative region, is the site of ongoing protests over a controversial new national security law that has attracted global attention.

APPLE AND GOOGLE WILL SHUT DOWN CORONAVIRUS TRACING APP WHEN PANDEMIC ENDS, COMPANIES SAY

Twitter has shared the data with its research partners, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Stanford Internet Observatory. In a blog post, the Stanford Internet Observatory noted that posts were divided into four topics: Hong Kong protests; COVID-19; exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui; and Taiwan.

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia.

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

“Tweet activity around COVID-19 ramped up in late January 2020 and spiked in late March,” the Stanford Internet Observatory wrote. “The majority of accounts were created mere weeks before they began tweeting in late January; however, some were created as early as September 2019, remaining dormant until they began tweeting about COVID-19 in March.”

“Narratives around COVID-19 primarily praise China’s response to the virus, and occasionally contrast China’s response against that of the U.S. government or Taiwan’s response, or use the presence of the virus as a means to attack Hong Kong activists,” researchers added. “The English-language content included pointed reiterations of the claim that China — not Taiwan — had a superior response to containing coronavirus.”

In its blog post, Twitter said that the core 23,750 accounts were “largely caught early”. The accounts, it explained, typically had low follower accounts and low engagement. “Of the approximately 150,000 amplifier accounts, the majority had little to no follower counts either and were strategically designed to artificially inflate impression metrics and engage with the core accounts,” it added.

TWITTER CEO JACK DORSEY PLEDGES OVER A QUARTER OF HIS WEALTH TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS

The protest movement in Hong Kong quieted down earlier this year as the coronavirus pandemic began, but picked up steam in recent weeks after China’s ceremonial parliament agreed to enact the new national security law for Hong Kong, a former British colony.

The government says the law is aimed at curbing secessionist and subversive behavior in the city, as well as preventing foreign intervention in its internal affairs. Critics say it is an attack on the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it was handed over to China in 1997.

China slammed Twitter over its move. “I’m not sure what is the basis of Twitter’s decision, but I would say that to equate plaudits for China’s epidemic response with disinformation is clearly untenable, unless we redefine what ‘disinformation’ is,” said Chinese Foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in a statement emailed to Fox News.  “It is generally understood that disinformation should be false, untrue, or even maliciously fabricated lies and rumors.”

“However, China’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and the results it achieved are real and witnessed by all,” she added, citing a document entitled “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action” that was issued by the Information Office of China’s State Council.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, some people and forces in the international community have been almost crazy and hysterical in slandering and badmouthing China with rumors,” the spokeswoman said. “If Twitter believes that those tweets praising China’s anti-epidemic efforts are “disinformation” and the accounts should be shut down, I wonder what they will do with the real disinformation which has undeniably smeared China with malicious intentions?”

China, she said, “is the biggest victim of disinformation.”

Twitter has also targeted 1,152 accounts that it says are involved in Russian misinformation. “We investigated accounts associated with Current Policy, a media website engaging in state-backed political propaganda within Russia,” it said. “A network of accounts related to this media operation was suspended for violations of our platform manipulation policy, specifically cross-posting and amplifying content in an inauthentic, coordinated manner for political ends.”

TWITTER’S JACK DORSEY DONATES $15M TO SAN FRANCISCO CORONAVIRUS RELIEF, WITH SOME CASH FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

“Activities included promoting the United Russia party and attacking political dissidents,” Twitter added.

Fox News has reached out to the Russian government with a request for comment on this story.

The Jack Dorsey-led company also removed 7,340 accounts that it says have been engaged in Turkish misinformation. “Detected in early 2020, this network of accounts was employing coordinated inauthentic activity, which was primarily targeted at domestic audiences within Turkey,” it said in its statement. “Based on our analysis of the network’s technical indicators and account behaviors, the collection of fake and compromised accounts was being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Fox News has reached out to the Turkish government with a request for comment on this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Business Achievement Awards

© 2020 Fortune Media IP Limited. All Rights Reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy (Your California Privacy Rights) | CCPA Do Not Sell My Information | Ad Choices 
FORTUNE is a trademark of Fortune Media IP Limited, registered in the U.S. and other countries. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.
Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: http://www.djindexes.com/mdsidx/html/tandc/indexestandcs.html.
S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions. | EU Data Subject Requests

Business Achievement Awards

Business Achievement Award

Copyrights © 2020 Business Achievement Awards All Rights Reserved.