Police dept’s. to block users from posting alleged “criminal content” on social media websites


The Chicago Police Department and Facebook have teamed up to stop users of the social network from posting “criminal” content.

The recent debate over government surveillance, however, has highlighted the role that technology companies play in law enforcement and national security investigations.

Noting the larger trend of cooperation between social media companies and law enforcement, independent journalist Kenneth Lipp reported Thursday that the Chicago Police Department was working with Facebook to rid the site of users posting illegal content.

“Also, not yet reported in the press, a senior police officer from the Chicago PD told a panel on Monday that his department was working with Facebook’s security chief to block users’ from the site by account (person), IP, and device (he did not say if by UUID or MAC address or other means of hardware ID) if it is determined they have posted what is deemed criminal content,” wrote Lipp.

Lipp said law enforcement agencies discussed new social media tools that could be implemented to aid in crime-fighting, but at the price of potentially costing citizens their freedom.

“Increasingly in discussion in workshops held by and for top police executives from throughout the world (mostly US, Canada and the United Kingdom, with others like Nigeria among a total of 13,000 representatives of the law enforcement community in town for the event),  and widely available from vendors, were technologies and department policies that allow agencies to block content, users and even devices – for example, ‘Geofencing’ software that allows departments to block service to a specified device when the device leaves an established virtual geographic perimeter,” Lipp wrote.

“The capability is a basic function of advanced mobile technologies like smartphones, ‘OnStar’ type features that link drivers through GIS to central assistance centers, and automated infrastructure and other hardware including unmanned aerial systems that must ‘sense and respond.’”

Apple, the maker of the highly popular iPhone, applied for a patent last year which allows a third-party to compromise a wireless device and change its functionality, “such as upon the occurrence of a certain event.”

The concept of social media monitoring tools (SMMT) were defined as “a tool used to capture data and monitor social media sites by utilizing automated tools such as Web crawlers and word search functions to make predictive analysis, develop trends or collect information.” 

Types of digital tools at their disposal include:

• Netbase
• Twitterfall
• Trackur
• Tweetdeck
• Socialmention
• Socialpointer
• Plancast

Some of the ways in which these corporations are able to gather data on unwitting users are:

• monitor your online reputation, measure social media trends and analyze social media mentions.
• allow monitors to track and respond in real-time to social mentions and user conversations
• publish most recent posts from Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Tumblr.
• monitor real-time trending on Twitter.
• track what people are saying about any topic, person or corporation in real-time from Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google. 

Emotive is a computer program developed by a team of researchers from Loughborough University (LBU)that can scan an estimated 2,000 tweets per second and access the mood of a nation using Twitter.

Emotive will help governments gage the propensity of a society toward civil unrest while pointing toward the identification of possible threats to public safety. The LBU Center for Information Management stated that this new system will “extract a direct expression of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, shame and confusion from each tweet.”

Researchers explained that by “using the Emotive software to geographically evaluate any mass mood could help police to track potential criminal behavior or threats to public safety. It may be able to guide national policy on the best way to react to major incidents.”

The website PrivacySOS.org acknowledged that former federal prosecutor-turned-Facebook security chief Joe Sullivan was scheduled to speak during the conference at a panel entitled “Helping Law Enforcement Respond to Mass Gatherings Spurred by Social Media,” and suggested that agencies could be partnering with tech companies to keep users of certain services for communicating and planning protests and other types of demonstrations. 
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A 2011 Bloomberg report revealed that Creativity Software, a UK based company with international clients, had sold geofencing programs to law enforcement in Iran which was then used to track political dissidents. US Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) told Bloomberg that those companies should be condemned for being complicit in human rights abuses.

The police officer mentioned spoke at the annual gathering of the International Association of Chiefs of Police on Oct. 21.

Facebook’s Community Standards and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities identifies types of content that could be deemed criminal, such as hate speech, pornography and copyright infringing material.

The company points out on its Safety Center page, however, that not every law enforcement request will result in a user account being blocked from the site.

“If Facebook receives an official request for account records, we first establish the legitimacy of the request,” states Facebook.

“When responding, we apply strict legal and privacy requirements,” says the company.

Facebook’s (CYA) statement denies they have a special relationship with law enforcement:

“Content reported by law enforcement is subject to the same review applied to reports from anyone using Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Caller on Sunday.

“There is no special partnership. We evaluate these reports based on our community standards, and as always, may remove information that violates our policies,” said the spokesperson.

Types of content that could be deemed criminal, such as hate speech, pornography and copyright infringing material are identified by Facebook’s Community Standards and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.


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