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Hong Kong's state-sponsored SEO on national anthem strikes the right note

Can't get Google to finish the job, though

Hong Kong's efforts to improve the accuracy of Google search results for its national anthem have yielded some affirmative results, according to an official from the Special Administrative Region of China.

"It should be said that colleagues from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) have done a lot of work over the past period, and through this web search engine optimization work, we believe that some websites that can reflect the correct information have improved significantly in their rankings," declared Professor Sun Dong, secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, on a Sunday radio program.

The song that is commonly mistaken for the national anthem is a Cantonese language protest song titled "Glory to Hong Kong" – released in August 2019 during protests against a law that allowed extradition of Hong Kong residents to China.

The song, which champions independence from China, is often sung at demonstrations alongside the Les Misérables revolution-themed classic "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

Popular it may be, but it is not Hong Kong's national anthem. China's "One country, two systems" scheme means Hong Kong has its own form of government but is part of the Middle Kingdom. While the territory has its own flag, it doesn't get its own tune.

According to Sun, the government has been working with Google to correct the matter since November 2022.

Google has denied requests to expunge info about "Glory to Hong Kong" and rank China's national anthem as the top response to queries for Hong Kong's national ditty, on grounds that its search results are based on fully automated algorithms. Google maintains it only removes content considered illegal.

On Monday, Sun said that by continuing to put misinformation online, Google is acting contrary to its own policy.

"Our view is that Google, as an internationally renowned web search provider, should fulfil its corporate responsibility to ensure that it provides its users with the right web information," said Sun, who added that he hopes Google can meet the SAR government "halfway."

The comments regarding the national anthem were provided in Chinese on the territory's government website. However, commentary from the radio program on Hong Kong's intent to become a data hub was provided separately in English.

Sun said the government had "done a lot of work" to attract data from both Mainland China and overseas, while enhancing infrastructure, and was considering the development of an AI supercomputing center.

"Last week, we have signed an agreement with the MOST – the Ministry of Science and Technology. In particular, we talked about how to deepen the R&D co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong," said Sun. Also on the agenda was sharing IT resources for science and technology development, technology transfer, manpower exchange.

Sun said the government wanted to strengthen both the "internationalization" of Hong Kong and coordination between top level Hong Kong and Mainland authorities. ®

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