HKmap Live, a crowdsourced mapping app that’s popular with Hong Kong protestors and is credited for keeping them safe, has had its Facebook account shut down.
I will add that I believe the ban is automated, it is more about Facebook's 'real name' policy prevented us to maintain a personal account anonymously. Facebook also removed the option of creating a business account by requiring all page tied to a personal account.
— HKmap.live 全港抗爭即時地圖 HK Protest Live Map (@hkmaplive) October 23, 2019
The creator of the app believes that the ban is automated and that it’s a result of Facebook’s policy requiring users to provide their real name when creating accounts. This policy prevented them from maintaining an anonymous account – something they likely wanted to do to stay safe as tensions escalate between police and protestors in Hong Kong.
While the banning of HKmap Live appears to be related to a policy that Facebook has had in place for many years, it is reflective of recent Facebook policy changes which have made it harder for users to stay anonymous or pseudonymous on the platform.
Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would start forcing some Page owners to make their private information public. For activists and protestors, this means that it will difficult to build a large Page anonymously or pseudonymously.
This is the second major setback HKmap Live has faced at the hands of the tech giants in recent weeks. This month, the app was also rejected from the App Store after Apple ignored US lawmakers who accused the company of being an “accomplice for Chinese censorship.”
When Apple rejected the HKmap Live, CEO Tim Cook claimed that “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimize individuals and property where no police are present” which put it in violation of Hong Kong law and violated App Store guidelines. However, HKmap Live disputed Cook’s claims and said “there is 0 evidence” to support the claims that the app was used for targeting police, threatening public safety, or victimizing residents.