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Google has reportedly denied Hong Kong’s request to alter its search result algorithm following a mishap at a rugby game in South Korea last month.
Secretary for Security of Hong Kong Chris Tang said that Google was asked to alter its search engine’s results to show China’s national anthem, “March of the Volunteers,” and not “Glory to Hong Kong,” the unofficial anthem of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019, as the first search result when looking up the city’s national anthem.
Despite the request, Google reportedly said it could not do anything as the search result is based on an algorithm without any human input.
“We’ve approached Google to request that they put the correct national anthem at the top of their search results, but unfortunately Google refused,” Tang said. “We felt great regret and this has hurt the feelings of Hong Kong people.”
Speaking on Monday, Tang said Hongkongers would find Google’s explanation “unacceptable.”
“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,” he said.
The controversy started in November after Hong Kong police were called to investigate an incident in which “Glory to Hong Kong” was played during the men’s final of the Sevens Series rugby tournament in Incheon, South Korea.
Written in 2019 amid the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Chinese government banned the song the following year after China passed its new and controversial national security law in the city.
In a statement, Hong Kong authorities said the tournament should have used China’s national anthem at the men’s final on Nov. 13 instead of “Glory to Hong Kong.”
Authorities reportedly launched an investigation to determine whether the incident had violated the National Anthem Ordinance or laws such as the Hong Kong national security law, the latter of which also applies to incidents that take place outside of Hong Kong.
Tournament organizer Asia Rugby Association apologized for the incident and admitted that they had downloaded the song from the internet. Seoul-based Korea Rugby Union cited the incident as a human error and said that what happened was not politically motivated.
Hong Kong Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki blasted Google in a recent statement that said the tech giant has a part to play in the incident.
He said that “Glory to Hong Kong” is available for anyone to download from Google although it is “factually wrong” since Hong Kong does not have its own official anthem.
Meanwhile, Tang accused Google of having “double standards” after denying the Chinese government’s request. He cited a recent court decision in which the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the tech giant must delete search results showing private details on European residents if the information posted is inaccurate.
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