Hong Kong protests drive surge in Telegram chat app

by BLOOMBERG/ pic by BLOOMBERG

First-time users of Telegram surged in Hong Kong after protesters flocked to the popular chat app during the months-long demonstrations that gripped the city, new data from Sensor Tower shows.

Telegram gained about 110,000 new users in Hong Kong in July across the Apple App Store and Google Play. First-time installs more than quadrupled, pushing the app to the city’s seventh-most downloaded last month from No. 88 a year earlier, the mobile data provider said. In total, Telegram has been installed 1.7 million times in Hong Kong and 365 million globally.

LIHKG, a message board that operates like Reddit, also soared to prominence in Hong Kong due to the protests, which have dogged the international finance hub since anger erupted over a government attempt to pass a bill allowing extraditions to China. There were only 12,000 downloads of the app back in July 2018, but that number soared last month, when it added 120,000 new users, Sensor Tower said.

The rapid surge in usage underscores the importance of mobile apps in helping protesters coordinate and spread information about rallies, marches and other actions. Unlike past protests, the current uprising in Hong Kong is bereft of a central leader and instead relies on crowd-sourced opinions and flash mobs that are often organised anonymously on these mobile services.