In a dramatic midnight vigil, Hong Kong protestors bid farewell to the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the latest victim of Beijing’s attempt to stifle dissent in the former British territory.
After the pro-democracy tabloid, Apple Daily was forced to close after 26 years due to a national security legislation crackdown, Hong Kong cyber-activists are backing up articles using censorship-proof blockchain networks.
The Hong Kong government can seek the blocking or removal of information it deems subversive or separatist under the national security statute, increasing concerns about internet freedom in the global financial capital.
In January 2021, the Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) stated that it has blocked access to HK Chronicles, a website that covers anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Last week, police froze the assets of companies linked to Apple Daily and detained five officials, leading to the publication of the newspaper’s final edition on Thursday. Authorities have claimed that dozens of Apple Daily articles may have broken the law, but there was no indication that Apple Daily material would be banned or prohibited.
Denise Ho, Singer, human rights activist and Bitcoin supporter tweeted:
Apple Daily articles were posted to the decentralized file storage site ARWeave by Ho (who did not provide his first name). Ho said,
I’m not doing this because I love Apple Daily, it’s what needs to be done. I never thought that Apple Daily would disappear so quickly.
ARWeave, like BitTorrent, breaks down a file into bits of data that are disseminated over an open network of anonymous computers all over the world. It touts itself as a “collectively owned hard drive that never forgets” on its website.
More than 4,000 Apple Daily stories have been published to ARWeave as of Thursday. There are also hundreds more RTHK shows dating back to 2012.
Kin Ko, another programmer, is working on a decentralized register called LikeCoin. The blockchain network uses a unique identifier called an International Standard Material Number to assist internet users to identify the metadata author, date, time, location, and version of the content (ISCN).
Modifications to the content’s digital fingerprint would reveal and monitor any changes made to it. The digital repository is currently in testing and will not be live for some months. However, Citizen News, an online pro-democracy publication, informed Reuters that it has already started using LikeCoin to categorize its images.
Ko’s original plan was to build a platform that could validate any sort of information, but he didn’t anticipate his platform to be so well received by pro-democracy activists.
Marc Garneau, Canada Foreign Minister, said the forced closure of Apple Daily was a significant blow to freedom of press and speech in Hong Kong.
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