Answers to “You Decide” Boxes
Suggested answers to “You Decide” boxes in the text provide a well-researched rationale behind the recommended response to key issues facing the law enforcement profession.
Answers to this question will undoubtedly vary for a variety of reasons.
As noted in the chapter, law enforcement monitoring of social media accounts is a recommended “evidence-based best practice.” If used correctly, for example, social media may be viewed as an effective tool by which to monitor potential agitators seeking to instigate violence. This can help to maintain a peaceful and safe environment for all who wish to exercise their 1st Amendment rights. Moreover, law enforcement officials can also use social media to quickly and effectively communicate with and “inform the public about events, developments, police procedures, or other announcements” (Police Executive Research Forum, 2011, p. 39). For instance, Twitter can be used to manage crowds by “tweeting” instructions to those in attendance who are using this social media platform.
However, civil rights organizations begin questioning police social media and Internet monitoring activities when they appear to target individuals or groups using these media to express constitutionally protected speech. Law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts, Missouri, and Tennessee, for example, were recently discovered to be utilizing a social media surveillance system called Geofeedia to monitor left-leaning groups such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MuslimLivesMatter, among others (Eledroos, 2018; Guynn, 2016). The primary concern of the ACLU and other civil rights organizations is that this type of law enforcement activity could significantly dampen, or even erode, freedom of speech more broadly (Gyunn, 2016). Much of the concern over the use of systems such as Geofeedia is related to the scarce oversight and purported lack of accountability by law enforcement when using such software.
Geofeedia has also been utilized in Chicago. In 2016, a spokesperson for the Chicago PD noted that “department regulations require investigators to file a special request notifying the department’s Office of General Counsel that it’s conducting a First Amendment investigation even when it is monitoring open source activity” (Guynn, 2016). It remains debatable whether this is enough to constitute transparency and accountability on the part of law enforcement agencies working to balance public safety as a top priority while allowing free speech.
Eledroos, N. (2018, October 11). Oops—Did police accidentally reveal unconstitutional surveillance when they tweeted a screenshot? Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/rights-protesters/oops-did-police-accidentally-reveal-unconstitutional-surveillance
Guynn, J. (2016, October 11). ACLU: Police used Twitter, Facebook to track protests. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/10/11/aclu-police-used-twitter-facebook-data-track-protesters-baltimore-ferguson/91897034/