A social media channel widely used by Hong Kong protesters to share personal details of police officers and their families has been closed down – two weeks after a court order came into effect to deter doxxing attacks.
The channel, named “dad finds boy” on the instant messaging app Telegram, began blocking updates from Thursday. The move was confirmed at a court hearing on Friday by lawyers representing the police and the city’s justice secretary.
Before its closure, the channel had more than 200,000 followers who had posted more than 4,200 pictures and videos of police officers and their families.
In one of the most recent cases of doxxing police, details were leaked of an officer’s wedding in Tseung Kwan O on Sunday, with calls for people to crash the party. Student Chow Tsz-lok, believed to have been caught up in a dispersal operation that night, fell one floor in a car park and suffered severe brain injury, from which he later died.
Other websites later carried calls to target the newlywed officer, with a small number of users calling for revenge and saying they would shout “blood for blood” in his neighbourhood.
Whistle-blowers in the now-defunct Telegram channel would input a victim’s information onto a template that included details such as name, identification card number and family members’ contacts.
On Friday, an announcement read: “This channel can’t be displayed because it has violated Telegram’s terms of service.”
It did not specify the terms that had been breached, although Telegram specifies channels should not be used to promote violence.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the case, and the police did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comments.
Doxxing attacks – which involve the malicious dissemination of private details, often leading to further harassment – have become commonplace during the anti-government protests, initially sparked by opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, among other jurisdictions.
Both sides of Hong Kong’s increasingly divided society have found themselves targeted.
Two weeks ago, police and the justice secretary filed and were granted an injunction order by the High Court to bar anyone from sharing the personal details of police officers and their families without their permission.
It was understood that police had contacted Telegram and notified it of the court order.
Privacy commissioner Stephen Wong Kai-yi had earlier said he had received about 2,370 complaints about doxxing, 694 of them from police, since the mass protests began on June 9.
On Friday, the High Court walked back from the blanket order and granted journalists an exemption as long as they were engaged in their professional stories.
During the hearing, barrister Jonathan Chang, for the police and justice secretary, informed the court that the channel “dad finds boy” had been closed.
Mr Justice Russell Coleman, who presided over the hearing, noted that doxxing attacks were not only on police officers but also their family members, including young children, with content he described as “disturbing”.
He described a chilling effect if people were too intimidated to air their views, which could lead to the disintegration of society.
On the Reddit-like online forum LIHKG, also popular among protesters, users said they needed to save “dad finds boy”. One called for others to write to Telegram to appeal to the provider to restore the group.
Despite the closure on Thursday, some information previously posted could still be accessed by users, depending on their devices, the Post has learned. Some of the data was also backed up on a different website.
Barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is also a member of the Executive Council, the city’s top advisory body, said earlier that the administrator could be held liable for contempt of court if the order was breached, not just the users.
But law scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming, from the University of Hong Kong, said it would be difficult to ask companies not based in Hong Kong to comply with a court order unless the company had an operational office here.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong court exempts journalists from ban granted to police on publishing personal details of officers amid fears over doxxing
- Hong Kong’s ban on posting online material inciting violence will be tough to enforce, while protesters brainstorm ideas to avoid being caught
- Angry campus crowd besieges Hong Kong university chief, demanding he condemn police actions as student suffers brain injury in car park fall after reportedly fleeing tear gas
This article Telegram social media channel used by protesters for doxxing Hong Kong police shuts down after leaking thousands of pictures and videos of officers and their families first appeared on South China Morning Post