NewsOne Now – A new report by the ACLU is raising concerns about how the government uses social media to monitor and crack down on Black activists.
According to the ACLU, police used data from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to track protests in Ferguson and Baltimore following the deaths of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray.
The data garnered from the popular social media platforms included locations, photos, and other information posted by users. Police received the information by way of the Chicago-based company Geofeedia, which analyzes social media posts to help law enforcement agencies around the country track crime.
Davon Love, Research and Public Policy Director for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, said of the report on Thursday’s edition of NewsOne Now that these practices “put the safety of activists in jeopardy.”
In what could be considered COINTELPRO 2.0, Love said, “We have people who are deemed by the state as wanting to transform the social order, you could be characterized as someone who is a threat and therefore, this surveillance technology can be used to undermine our safety.”
Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of the Color of Change, considers this form of surveillance a “major issue.”
“This is not the only company that actually works with Facebook and Twitter, and so them cutting off Geofeedia’s ability to access data is not our only problem,” said Robinson.
The Black activist explained governments using services like Geofeedia, which “captures a whole lot of information in one swath,” are in essence flexing their power. Robinson told Roland Martin, host of NewsOneNow, this type of surveillance is never put into practice on college campuses “when students overturn cars after losing a sporting event.”
The geotargeting practices are being instituted to “push back against people exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly,” Robinson said, adding, “As a result of this type of tracking, people’s Facebook feeds will get shut off as they are filming police.
“People noticed they were being followed in grocery stores and being referred to by police officers by their Twitter handles…This is all sort of a bigger piece of how people are being monitored and tracked and how this sort of digital stop-and-frisk is used to deeply criminalize folks in ways outside of both the law and outside of the ethics of companies like Facebook and Twitter,” Robinson concluded.