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13 Dec, 2022 13:56

Hong Kong slams Google in anthem row

A senior security official says the company failed to prioritize the correct information about the city’s national song
Hong Kong slams Google in anthem row

Google has refused to ensure that the Chinese national anthem tops search rankings, rather than a protest song, when users enter the words ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘national anthem’, Chris Tang, the city’s top security official, said on Monday. He accused the search giant of “double standards” and vowed to “do everything we can to correct the situation.”

Hong Kong became a Chinese self-governing city after British rule ended there in 1997. Since then, the city has been using China's national anthem ‘March of the Volunteers’ as its own.

However, ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, a song written in support of the large-scale anti-Beijing protests that rocked the city in 2019-20, is also prominently featured in Google’s search results. The song was banned in 2020, under China’s national security law. State-run media outlets argued that it was associated with riots and social unrest that occurred during the protests.

The Hong Kong government last month formally asked Google to prioritize China’s anthem over the protest song. “We were told earlier by Google that all search results were generated by an algorithm with no human input,” Tang said, adding that the company’s response “has hurt the feelings of Hong Kong people.”

It has been widely known that anyone who wants their information to be seen by more people could spend money on adverts to get their posts promoted. The claim by Google that its hands are tied is incomprehensible.

Tang accused the Silicon Valley-based tech giant of “double standards.” He pointed to the EU’s top court, which ruled last week that Google must remove information if a concerned party proves that it is inaccurate.

Google has not commented on Tang’s remarks. The company said about the EU’s court ruling at the time that it has “worked hard” to implement the bloc’s policies and sought “to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy.”

The protest song was accidentally played instead of the Chinese anthem before a rugby game in South Korea last month, when the Hong Kong faced South Korea. It has also been presented as the city’s anthem before rugby matches in the UAE and Australia in recent months. Event organizers apologized for their mistakes following complaints from Hong Kong officials.