Facebook suspends ‘anti-violence’ Whatsapp hotlines of Hong Kong

Washington: Social media giant Facebook has suspended 10 ‘anti-violence’ Whatsapp hotlines of Hong Kong police, used by the force to obtain intelligence on the pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous region.

The hotlines were intended to serve as platforms for obtaining intelligence on the protesters’ activities by observing the photos and videos shared by its members. Less than 72 hours after their launch, Facebook stepped in and suspended
these hotlines on grounds that the messenger app was intended for private messaging only, reported South China Morning Post.

A statement issued by a Facebook spokesperson on Friday stated that the terms of use of the app states that any non-personal use of the services was not allowed unless otherwise authorised by the company.

“WhatsApp is primarily designed for private messaging and we take action to prevent bulk and automated messaging,” the statement read.

While the police have said that it ‘decided’ to suspend hotline on Friday because it received mixed reviews, South China Morning Post learnt that some of the hotlines were down as early as Tuesday and the police found them inoperable by Friday morning.

“Since the hotline started to operate, a large amount of information was received and at the same time, there were different opinions on the hotline,” a statement by the police read. “As a result, the police decided to suspend the hotline.”

Notably, the statement added that the police will “continue to explore various channels to collect information for the prevention and detection of crime”.

The report further cited a police source as saying that the plan to launch these hotlines had not been well-prepared by the police. The view was echoed by another police source, who blamed the large volume of incoming messages, “as many as 10,000 at once,” for alerting the social media company.