Doxxing of Hong Kong children spurs new Facebook policies
After children of police were identified in pictures posted online during Hong Kong's ongoing protests, Facebook has decided to take action worldwide
Social media giant Facebook introduced a new policy to protect minors after children of Hong Kong police officers became victims of doxxing attacks during the city’s ongoing anti-government protests, its content manager revealed on Wednesday.
Under the policy that was implemented worldwide in September, Facebook removes content designed to identify children and create risks to their safety.
Simon Harari, one of the company’s content policy managers, said the move was inspired by recent developments in Hong Kong.
“We saw photos of police officers’ children being posted,” Harari said. But in these images, there were no threats that could trigger a removal under the company’s previous policies that only banned violence and slurs.
“I think we can all agree that children have no business being put on Facebook against their will and being made part of this debate,” he said.Harari, who leads a policy team of 13 in the Asia-Pacific region, said the company had never before encountered problems with users posting general pictures of children.
As of late October, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said it had received more than 2,600 cases relating to doxxing and cyberbullying.
Doxxing is the malicious exposure of one’s personal information online, which often leads to nuisance or threats in real life.
Since the anti-government protests began in June, both protesters and police officers have fallen victim to cyber assaults, with the latter fearing for the safety of their children because their photos were posted online.
Harari said Facebook had a team of 15,000 people around the world to review content, including native speakers of more than 50 languages, to ensure cultural differences were considered.
He said Facebook’s existing policies, which placed an emphasis on privacy and the deterrence of hate speech, could already prevent doxxing or cyberbullying.
For example, users were barred from posting another’s personal phone number, email address, home address or identification card number.
“If you post any sort of information that can somehow be used either for the purposes of stealing someone’s identity or subjecting them to real-world harm, that is going to be captured by our policy,” he said.
But the platform also wanted to make sure people could conduct debates online, free from excessive restrictions.
One such example was the slurs exchanged during Hong Kong’s protests, with protesters often referring to police officers as “dogs” and members of the force retaliating with the term “cockroaches.”
While the slurs were intended to dehumanize, Harari said Facebook would not intervene as long as the comments did not also contain threats of violence or targeted an individual based on sex, ethnicity or religion.
The spread of misinformation was also an issue during the roiling protests, with allegations leveled against both sides.
Harari said Facebook had paired up with French news agency Agence France-Presse to verify claims and rearranged false posts so they would not be seen by 80% of users.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also implemented the policy.