Friday, December 9, 2022

Are Hong Kong protesters really knocking down ‘facial recognition’ towers?

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A video exhibiting a gaggle of protesters in Hong Kong destroying what they imagine is a “facial recognition tower” began circulating once more on social media in early Might. Nevertheless it seems these photos are from 2019 and so they truly present sensible lamp posts. To be truthful, some members of the Hong Kong opposition do have actual issues that the authorities are utilizing these lamp posts to surveil town, despite the fact that the authorities say that isn’t their objective. 

In case you solely have a minute

  • A video that began circulating on Twitter on Might 4, 2022 reveals Hong Kong protesters attacking what they name a facial recognition tower. In response to the caption on this video, it was filmed lately.

  • In actuality, the video is from pro-democracy protests that occurred through the summer season of 2019.

  • Protesters destroyed a so-called sensible lamp submit, which they imagine accommodates facial recognition software program. The federal government, nonetheless, says that isn’t the intention of those installations.

The verification intimately

A video shared on Twitter on Might 4, 2022 and retweeted practically 37,000 instances reveals Hong Kong residents, in response to the caption, “reducing down facial recognition towers”. A person makes use of an electrical noticed on what seems to be like a lamp submit – a protracted stem with a inexperienced factor on high within the form of a leaf. 

The pole falls to the cheers of a crowd of protesters wearing black and carrying umbrellas. When it falls to the bottom, individuals have a go at it – kicking it, spray portray it and pouring some form of liquid on the parts.


Sure parts within the video, just like the IKEA emblem within the backdrop and the orange Mega Field constructing, made it attainable for our group to simply establish the situation the place it was filmed which, is, certainly Hong Kong. The same lamp submit is seen on Google Road View photos from March 2022. Related posts have been put in up and down the road. 


Video from August 2019

Since early Might, this video has been shared extensively on social media platforms, from Gab to Reddit to Twitter, with a caption that makes it look like the scene occurred in Might 2022. 

“Individuals in Hong Kong are rising towards dictatorship of China … they’re reducing down facial recognition towers from streets. Lengthy Stay the Resistance !” says one tweet, posted by a verified user with the Indian Military. 

“Individuals in Hong Kong are reducing down the facial recognition towers. In the meantime Twitter doesn’t need you to retweet this,” reads another Tweet.

You’ll find out when the video was truly filmed by finishing up a search utilizing the important thing phrases “Hong-Kong: individuals destroy facial recognition towers” in English on completely different social media websites in addition to a reverse picture search utilizing the software Invid WeVerify (try this link to learn the way). Seems, the video began circulating on-line on August 24, 2019, the day of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. One instance is that this tweet, which has been deleted, however you possibly can see it archived

Furthermore, this scene couldn’t have taken place in 2022. A few of the protesters are holding umbrellas, which they use to create a wall to dam the individual truly felling the lamp submit. Protests in 2014 have been nicknamed the “umbrella revolution” and, since then, the umbrella has change into an emblem of democratic resistance. However since Hong Kong adopted the so-called national security law on June 30, 2020, pro-democratic umbrellas have abandoned Hong Kong streets. This regulation permits regulation enforcement to arrest anybody for “threatening nationwide safety” for obscure causes. Since June 2020, numerous pro-democracy activists have been arrested, others have been silenced whereas others have fled the nation. 

‘Facial recognition tower’?

In case you perform a search with the software Invid WeVerify, you’ll additionally see that the video has resurfaced a number of instances since 2019.  Right here it’s in August 2020, for instance. Right here’s one other instance from December 2020. It at all times has the identical caption, in English, which mentions “facial recognition towers”.

In case you sort these phrases into Google, you then’ll discover articles from the time that give extra details about the context. These two movies by ABC present, for instance, the scene from another angle.

The knocked down construction is definitely a “sensible lamp submit”, in response to this text within the Swiss newspaper “Le Temps”. Installations like these have sparked worry amongst the opposition.  

In 2019, the Hong Kong authorities did set up about 50 of those sensible lamp posts. They wish to set up one other 350 by 2023. These lamp posts allow them to collect info on the climate, site visitors and air high quality as a part of a “smart city” project.

However as a result of they’re geared up with cameras and may switch information, the Hong Kong opposition instantly expressed fears about what they could be used for. 

This is a description of a smart lamp post on a government website.
This is a description of a smart lamp post on a government website. © OGCIO HONG KONG


So the protesters within the video are attacking it as a result of they worry that it’d include facial recognition software program managed by China.

Throughout protests in the summertime of 2019, many feared that the authorities would use surveillance and facial recognition know-how to arrest activists. That’s one of many causes they began hiding behind umbrellas. 

Facial recognition know-how is in every single place in China and sensible surveillance cameras are already used in some cities, like Nanjing, to surveil even the smallest actions by individuals as a part of the “social credit score” system.

After questions from the general public, the Hong Kong authorities said in July 2019 that sensible lamp posts didn’t have any facial recognition know-how. Additionally they mentioned that a few of the lamp submit’s features weren’t activated at this stage, like monitoring automotive license plates. There may be info on these lamp posts that’s publicly accessible, including the capabilities of each lamp post and their placement

Impartial consultants, interviewed by AFP FactCheck in September 2019, say that even when the cameras in these lamp posts weren’t put in for facial recognition functions, it will be simple to change them to take action. 

In 2022, Hong Kong continued to put in these sensible lamp posts, despite the fact that debates about facial recognition know-how and privateness are nonetheless in full pressure. Presently, debate is targeted on an app known as “LeaveHomeSafe”, created to trace those that had been in touch with somebody unwell with Covid-19. On Might 5, 2022, the government admitted that the app did certainly include facial recognition know-how and asked the developer to look into eradicating it. 

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