TECH HK messaging platforms urged to stop doxxing, hate speech


HK messaging platforms urged to stop doxxing, hate speech

Global Times

06:03, September 13, 2019


Two men pose with smartphones in front of a screen showing the Telegram logos. (Photo: VCG)

Social networks such as Telegram and LIHKG, which Hong Kong protesters  use widely for communication in assemblies,  have become platforms that spread hate speech and leak information of pro-establishment people. Analysts urged strict regulations to be adopted to curb terror-like activities on the platforms.

A mother of a kindergarten student, who complained about some teachers telling children that "the police officers are bad guys," told the Global Times on Tuesday that she was afraid of being doxxed by anti-government protesters, so she decided to drop the complaint as her e-mail address had been leaked online. 

The mother, a local Hongkonger who supports the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the police, is among many silent Hong Kong people whose voices have been suppressed by radical protesters for fear of possible retaliation.

She previously complained to the Hong Kong Police Force, and forwarded her complaint to the Education Bureau on Monday, saying her five-year-old child, who is in K3 grade, had a face-to-face interview at Hong Kong University Graduates Association Primary School and was told by the teachers that "the police officers are bad guys."

The mother said her child was too young to tell right from wrong and believes teachers should not talk about political topics in kindergarten. 

It has become increasingly common that if pro-establishment groups speak out in favor of the HKSAR government or the police, or they hold different views on anti-government protests and condemn the violence, their personal information could  be leaked on the social networks of Telegram and LIHKG. 

The two platforms have been the most popular messaging apps among Hong Kong protesters. Telegram is a cloud-based messaging app developed by Russians, registered in both the US and the UK, but has been blocked by Russia. Reddit-like forum LIHKG was established in 2016, and is based in Hong Kong. 

Spreading hate speech

Some radical protesters use the two platforms to spread hate speech on those who disagree with them, and even expose privacy of those who hold a different stance. The name, picture and other private information of "blue ribbons" (pro-establishment groups) and frontline police officers and their family members have been leaked on the platform.

John Tse Chun-chung, head of the Hong Kong Police public relations, has been exposed through doxxing, with information of his children being leaked on LIHKG. Some radical protesters issued threats online, claiming that they would pick them up after school, which is frightening for many police officers and their family members. 

Spreading hate messages or doxxing someone who supports the HKSAR government and the police could be done very quickly. The post could directly link to the targeted people's Facebook pages, photos being posted, and his personal information leaked on LIHKG or Telegram. 

Global Times reporters saw the personal information and photos of a police officer 's girlfriend leaked on Telegram, because of her support for police and her opposition to violent protests.  

The information, including occupation, phone number, company address and family address of this pro-police woman surnamed Chan were all leaked on Telegram. 

A separate video obtained by the Global Times Monday night showed a Hong Kong young man was beaten hard by protesters and his phone snatched after the man tried to shoot videos of black-clad protesters changing their black shirts to white shirts to avoid arrest. 

Such violence-oriented messages and hate speech have created fear not only online but also in the real world, which has become a terror-like act that forces Hong Kong people to remain silent in front of violence and illegal behavior. 

Many social platforms have their own policies to prevent rumors and hate speech from spreading. The mainland's Weibo for example requires real-name registration of all users. 

Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday that doxxing on social platforms is an intrusion of privacy and those being doxxed can file a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data in Hong Kong.

"However, even with a complaint, the Office cannot do much about it," Tang noted.

Tang said in Hong Kong, there is no legal basis to shut down messaging apps such as Telegram and LIHKG, and the operators of such platforms are responsible for securing  users' private information and regulating their platforms.

"The existing laws can play a major role in supervising the networks and managing online groups. This can be done legally and technologically," Tang said, adding that a pragmatic approach would be to adopt real-name registration as the mainland does.

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