New reports revealed that social media plays a huge role in helping police track down protesters in the wake of continued police brutality incidents across the country.
According to The Washington Post, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter each assisted law enforcement in locating protest activity following the Ferguson police killings of unarmed black teen Mike Brown and Baltimore resident Freddie Gray. Each of the platforms reportedly provided findings generated from user feeds to a company by the name of Geofeedia, which gathers data from social media posts and shares it with hundreds of law enforcement agencies nationwide in an effort to help track “criminal activity.”
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Not surprisingly, the ACLU has found that much of the Geofeedia data provided is often used by law enforcement to target minority groups. Documents obtained by the organization specifically found that Facebook assistance helped enable Geofeedia to begin tracking trending topics from publicized posts about protests or riots, which was later provided to law enforcement.
ACLU director Nicole Ozer criticized the social media giants for their willingness to provide findings to the company for what she described as “discriminatory surveillance” of people of color.
“These platforms need to be doing more to protect the free speech rights of activists of color and stop facilitating their surveillance by police,” Ozer said. “The ACLU shouldn’t have to tell Facebook or Twitter what their own developers are doing. The companies need to enact strong public policies and robust auditing procedures to ensure their platforms aren’t being used for discriminatory surveillance.”
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all since cut off Geofeedia’s access to their user data in light of the ACLU’s findings.