Bigo Technology, which owns apps such as Bigo Live and Likee, is shifting its servers from Hong Kong to Singapore in response to China’s enactment of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, Reuters reported. Since the law was enacted in June, multiple Big Tech firms — Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and Twitter — have suspended their mechanisms to process data requests from law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong. TikTok, a competitor of Bigo Technology’s Likee, had also announced that it will cease its operations in the territory. We have reached out to Bigo for more details. The development also comes as the US is doubling down on Chinese internet companies (more on that below).
The National Security Law defines offences very broadly and allows the police to take down internet posts and punish internet companies that do not comply with data requests. For not complying with the law, companies could be fined almost $13,000 and authorities could jail employees of the internet companies for six months. If an employee refuses to remove content as ordered, they could be jailed for a year. The police can also order deletion of posts that threaten national security. Since the new law applies across the world, companies would also have to give data of users in countries outside Hong Kong.
Bigo Live and Likee were banned in India: Bigo’s announcement comes as its Bigo Live and Likee were banned in India, along with 57 other ‘Chinese’ apps in June over national security concerns. The company also told Reuters that it had appealed to both Singapore and Indian governments following the ban. Likee had 150 million users globally as of June, as per an earnings press release by JOYY, the Chinese internet company which owns Bigo Technology. Pakistan’s telecom regulator had also banned Bigo Live in July over “obscene” and “immoral” content, while issuing a “final warning” to TikTok.
The US has banned US transactions with TikTok, and has directed Bytedance to divest its assets in the US: The United States is doubling down on Chinese internet companies such as TikTok parent Bytedance, and TenCent’s WeChat. On August 14, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing Bytedance to divest from its American assets and its rights to any user data that TikTok gathered in the country, within 90 days. Before that, Trump had barred all US transactions with TikTok and WeChat by means of an executive order signed earlier in August. Bigo is hoping “not to be caught in the crossfire”, according to Reuters.