LCQ15: Ensuring provision of correct official information in Internet search results
It is learnt that at present, when using the Internet search engine of Google to search "national anthem Hong Kong", what is at the top of the search results is not the correct national anthem of China, but a song related to the "black-clad violence". Since the uncovering of this issue, Google has not yet deleted search results containing that song and other related incorrect information. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the new plans under the existing mechanism put in place by the Government to propel showing of the correct national anthem in the search results of the Google search engine; whether it has checked if the search results are correct when using the Google search engine to search other official emblems of Hong Kong (e.g. the national flag, regional emblem and regional flag);
(2) whether it has studied if the Hong Kong National Security Law is applicable in respect of regulating such search results, and whether it has plans to pursue the aforesaid issue of search results through legal means, so as to ensure that the public can get correct information in their searches;
(3) whether it will invite Google to explain its search engine's algorithms and request Google to update its algorithms, and what measures are in place to ensure the provision of correct information for the public in the search results of the Google search engine; and
(4) of the plans in place to step up the publicity efforts for the national anthem, national flag, regional flag and foot drill protocols, such as whether it will look into making good use of the platforms of the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) to step up its publicity efforts as well as adding relevant information to RTHK's website and social media, so as to increase public awareness and search volumes with a view to ensuring that correct official information can be shown in the search results of search engines?
Having consulted the Security Bureau, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau and the Education Bureau, the reply to the questions raised by Hon Yung Hoi-yan is as follows:
(1) and (3) The Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) have been maintaining communication with the Google Hong Kong about the case. In November 2022, the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry (SITI) met and mounted solemn negotiations with the representatives from the Google Asia Pacific Public Policy and Government Affairs. During the meeting, we expressed clearly that the incorrect information resulting from some internet search would not only provide excuses for the wrongdoing by some people with ulterior motives, but also mislead the local and overseas netizens, causing serious damage to our country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). We strongly requested Google to address the situation and take follow-up actions in a serious manner. The OGCIO had requested Google in writing right after the meeting to remove the incorrect information from the search results and rank the correct information at the top of search results.
Subsequently, Google replied in writing in December that the ranking of search results is based on fully-automated search engine algorithm and will not change the result to display correct information as the top search result through manual operations. Instead, only illegal content will be removed from the search engine in that region in accordance with the local ordinances. We consider that all Internet search engine service providers have to bear their corporate responsibility to provide their service users with correct online content. Google has an undeniable responsibility to rectify the incorrect information from the search results. The SITI thus further wrote to the head office of Google in the same month to request the removal of the incorrect search results, emphasising that the existing search results are obviously improper and misleading, as well as violating the "Content policies for Google Search". The HKSAR Government will continue to reach out to Google. The SITI recently had a meeting with the seniors of the Google Asia Pacific. Both sides agreed to maintain communication continuously and identify a proper way to resolve the problem, with a view to ensuring that the correct information of National Anthem is provided to their service users by the search engine.
At the same time, we are closely monitoring the search results of Regional Flag and Regional Emblem in the internet. We are also optimising the content of relevant government webpages on the National Anthem from the technical perspective to improve the ranking of webpages in the search results. Nevertheless, search engine algorithms normally rank results based on the relevance of searching phrases and websites and search volume rather than the authenticity of individual websites or their trustworthiness. Meanwhile, since the information on the Internet is ever changing, search results from a search engine could be different at different times even under the use of the same word or phrase. We recommend that the public should refer to the government website in order to obtain the accurate information. The official recording of the National Anthem is available for download at the website of the Protocol Division Government Secretariat.
(2) The Government will follow up on whether there has been any violation of the National Anthem Ordinance or any other Hong Kong laws by any person. We will, based on the results of the investigation, take appropriate follow-up action.
(4) To preserve the dignity of the National Flag, the National Emblem and the National Anthem which are symbols and signs of our country, to enhance the sense of national identity among citizens and promote patriotism, as well as to educate the public on the proper use of the National Flag, the National Emblem and the National Anthem, the Government has been taking forward the related publicity and educational work in a proactive manner. Such work includes production of the Announcements in the Public Interest (APIs) on television and radio for promoting the knowledge of these national symbols and signs and the related rules of usage and etiquette subsequent to the enactment of the National Anthem Ordinance and the National Flag and National Emblem (Amendment) Ordinance, and related publicity work on online social media platforms.
In addition to broadcasting the National Anthem on various channels daily and broadcasting live the flag-raising and National Anthem playing and singing ceremonies on important occasions (such as the National Day and the anniversaries of the establishment of the HKSAR), Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) is also producing a new short video "The Story of the National Anthem" to introduce the origin of the National Anthem and explain the background and historical significance of the "March of the Volunteers" as the National Anthem, as well as relevant information about the "National Anthem Ordinance". The video will be broadcast on RTHK's TV channel this month (January 2023) as well as uploaded to various online platforms of RTHK and the special webpage of "The Story of the National Anthem".
Besides, in view of the incidents of playing the wrong song as our National Anthem in sports competitions, the HKSAR Government has liaised with the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China and the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee. Guidelines were promulgated in November 2022 for all national sports associations and all sports organisations subvented by the HKSAR Government. The guidelines clearly set out how they should ensure the correct use and description by overseas event organisers of the National Anthem of the People's Republic of China and the Regional Flag of the HKSAR, and also require them to proactively approach their corresponding international and Asian sports federations to ensure that our National Anthem and Regional Flag receive the rightful respect warranted.
Meanwhile, the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau (HYAB) works closely with the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education (CPCE) in promoting civic and national education through various channels and means, including producing television and radio APIs on the National Anthem for broadcasting on all local paid and free media channels before specified daily news. The API video clips are also available for viewing on the online channel of the Information Services Department. In addition, the HYAB and the CPCE also sponsor local organisations to organise various promotional activities on civic and national education. The HYAB has also co-ordinated with the Hong Kong Police Force and Civil Aid Service to provide training on foot drill and flag raising in Chinese style to representatives of youth uniformed groups in order to strengthen the promotion of national education to young people through such activities as raising the National Flag and playing the National Anthem.
In addition, the regular training provided by the disciplined and auxiliary services departments for their youth uniformed group members include national education as well as Chinese-style foot drill and flag raising training, with a view to enhancing the sense of nationhood and national identity among young people.
On the other hand, the Education Bureau (EDB) has been providing curriculum guides, developing learning and teaching resources as well as organising diversified learning activities within and beyond the classroom to deepen students' understanding of and respect for the symbols and signs representing the country including the National Flag, the National Emblem and the National Anthem. Relevant learning contents have long been incorporated in the local curricula of different subjects to cultivate a sense of belonging towards country and sense of national identity among students. The theme-based resources webpage of "Getting to Know the National Flag, the National Emblem, the National Anthem and the Regional Flag" has been placed on the first page of the EDB website. The "National Education One-stop Portal" online resources platform (www.edb.gov.hk/en/neosp) also provides abundant learning and teaching resources including videos of National Flag raising ceremony and school examples showing the proper way to display the National Flag and the Regional Flag, the etiquette to be followed in a National Flag raising ceremony, etc. The EDB also provides professional development programmes to teachers, such as workshops on National Flag raising ceremony to enable teachers and students to master the basic Chinese-style foot drill, the command words and the procedures of raising the National Flag. Besides, the EDB takes the lead to launch the "Love Our Home, Treasure Our Country" series of inter‑school national education activities in Government schools, including the Chinese-style Foot Drill Training and Competition, starting from the 2022/23 school year. The EDB will record highlights of the training and competition for future publicity and promotional purpose.
Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:50
Issued at HKT 14:50