Fake Facebook Page Used by Cops for Spying Draws Judge's Rebuke

(Bloomberg) -- A federal judge ordered police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, to be trained on the do’s and don’ts of monitoring social media after the department admitted to creating a fake Facebook page to spy on Black Lives Matter activists.

An account with the alias “Bob Smith” was used by the department to infiltrate the group by becoming Facebook friends with activists who campaign against violence toward blacks. The judge found the practice was a violation of a 40-year-old court agreement barring the city’s police from collecting political intelligence on activists exercising their free-speech rights.

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla said it’s one thing for police to friend a suspected drug dealer as part of a narcotics investigation, but quite another to use Facebook as a surveillance tool for widespread monitoring of lawful protesters.

With court-ordered reforms, Memphis “has the opportunity to become one of the few, if only, metropolitan police departments in the country with a robust policy for the protection of privacy in the digital age,” McCalla wrote. “The court recognizes this may be a heavy burden; being a pioneer usually is.”

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