Massachusetts Police Tweet Lets Slip Scale Of Routine Surveillance Of Left Wing Groups


By Sarah Betancourt
The Guardian (9/15/18)

At the height of Thursday night’s gas emergency that affected 8,000 people and in which one person was killed, Massachusetts state police posted to Twitter a map of responses to fires and explosions.

It was an image of a computer monitor, showing locations of 39 incidents as confirmed “by MSP Watch Center”, and it included a vital message: “Reminder: all residents of Lawrence/Andover/N[orth] Andover who have Columbia Gas must evacuate, as should anyone else who smells gas.”

But the image also showed something else: a bookmarks bar at the top of the browser window which listed several leftwing groups.

The bookmarks included a Facebook group for Mass Action Against Police Brutality (MAAPB); the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (Combat); Facebook 413; Facebook MA Activism; and Resistance Calendar, which notes timings for canvassing for Democratic or progressive candidates and anti-Trump rallies.

The state police’s official Twitter account shared the image at 6.26pm. Less than half an hour later it deleted it and shared a new one, which had been cropped. But the first tweet had already drawn the attention of activists and reporters, who shared screenshots and began a social media debate about online police surveillance.

The MSP Watch Center is the information-gathering Commonwealth Fusion Center, formed in 2005 to facilitate the “collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence relevant to terrorism and public safety”. There are more than 100 such centers nationwide. …

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(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to )


Berkeley Cops Posted Activists’ Mugshots On Twitter Leading To Harassment & Threats

One police email had the subject line, “Info flow from Jail to Twitter.”

By Sam Levin
The Guardian (9/14/18)

California police agency that published the names and photos of anti-fascist protesters on Twitter said it was creating a “counter-narrative” on social media and celebrated its high rate of retweets and “engagement”, internal records reveal.

The Berkeley police department (BPD) faced widespread backlash last month after posting the personal information of arrested activists online, leading to Fox News coverage and harassment and abuse against the leftwing demonstrators at a far-right rally. New emails have shown that the city has an explicit policy of targeting protesters with mugshot tweets, with the goal of using “social media to help create a counter-narrative”.

Officials have further praised the “unusually deep and broad publication and attention” to activists’ mugshots, saying it helped create a “narrative about the city’s ability to enforce the rule of law”.

The records have sparked fresh scrutiny of the northern California police department, with critics accusing law enforcement of aiding the “alt-right” by shaming anti-fascists online after making questionable arrests. City lawmakers, citing the Guardian’s reporting, have now proposed an ordinancethat would ban police from posting mugshots on social media unless the arrested individuals posed an immediate public safety threat.

“It is devastating that BPD would endanger people for the sake of their public relations campaign,” said Andrea Pritchett, an activist with Berkeley Copwatch.

Police arrested 20 people on 5 August, and all were counter-protesters and anti-fascists who came to demonstrate against a far-right event, according to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of San Francisco, which is representing some of the activists.

Many arrested were cited for “possession of a banned weapon”, which police said included “anything” that could be used in a “riot”. Some were arrested for bandanas and scarves that police considered “masks” and sign poles cited as “weapons”, according to the NLG, which is representing activists. …

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