Law enforcement and social media

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Fed's + social media

Feds brought in intern to scrape social media to use as evidence

They wouldn't have gotten if it wasn't so easy to get -- if it's harder for feds, they don't always do it, e.g. if they needed to subpoena Insta

Other dynamic: use of youtube and instragram and fb to a degree to create fictional entities called a "gang"; many of us are familiar with certain street gangs, authorities often use social groupings to create narrative of a gang

How do we combat that? Experiences we have with that.


  • Interest in trend of cherry picking benign behavior to create narrative to ascribe negative behavior
  • Parent was target of federal investigation, lying low on social media
  • Work on operational security, worked on cases where social media information was subpoenaed, wound up with personal information in a case
  • Opposite direction: authorities poisining the well
  • How work could create risk and harm, e.g. social at Standing Rock
  • Use of social media posts in immigration cases;
  • How apps create cases against queer people in middle east
  • Legal side, e.g. in California ... piece in law journal about how probation and parole depts were creating fake profiles of women to be able to collect / connect conversation to war on youth, surveillance -- if you're brown, you're MS13, if you're black, you're radical black nationalist, // (didn't catch) // and dating apps, korea had grindr profiles deployed near military bases to be able to kick soliders out Non-subponea piece is really important. LAPD has police intelligence gathing guidelines (PIGG), group doesn't have to be involved in anything radical, but can be infiltrated for 90 days
  • teaching digital privacy and trying to develop curriculums, see what is useful ... even savvy folks not motivated to do things that are available, much less at risk people. Vulnerable people not necessarily using signal. Very hard when friends aren't both tech savvy and super energetic about these issues. all of laws and ideas are from 19th century and haven't caught up with the implications and consequences that no one notices .. congres is making decisions about things they don't know about; don't have vocab to really address
  • stronger security culture in Chile, but online has changed the dynamics and less so
  • interest in unexpectedly dangerous technology; gaps between culture and technology that exist


A: Key dynamic: any individual person can do everything right, but if people in your network don't put that effort in, then that person gets you in trouble; it's a consciousness issue but maybe also a technical issue ...

this problem could be solved by the social media companies if they wanted to, one button privacy lockdown

if X is arrested, my friend, I can't tell you "hey, delete your FB" -- now you're in BIG trouble. But I can tell you lock down your privacy. But first, that's not easy. FB is providing backportal to law enforncement. If you're interested in teaching and learning about these things -- download your own archive, and look at it from perspective of trying to mess someone up ... do this before you're arrested or get in trouble, with others in your network

unrealistic to make FB not work more closely with law enforcement


  • thing happens with social media giants, we're trying to ask individual people to do things instead of having easy way to do things; we often get stuck in this disempowered at-the-fringe model
  • do you really think worth the effort to get state regulate against the state's interest? trying to get regulations passed against own interests probably an exercise in futility; using tools in more effective ways is probably a better strategy
  • get a lot of stories from middle eastern communities -- easier to convince companies in US to do something about, but makes it easier to make a global change, when regional changes happen easier to happen internationally; gathered stories about how authorities used social media to prosecute people for being queer; focus on responsibility -- how the app is being used to violate human rights; community technology and legal groups came together to talk about the ways could become more secure to prevent these things. Utopian ideas ... but tech people evluated how realistic. E.g. a panic button that shuts down whole profile. small project, some parts could be replicated but difficult in US context. Able to get grindr to be able to change / hide app icons. People were already doing it, using it at checkpoints to hide activity. in 140 countries... but not US. is it closeting? no, consent and agency. FB is very extractive when it comes to one's research and efforts in particular.
  • panic button that deletes all information;
  • dangers of entrapment, police officers pretending to be someone else; very sophisticated techniques; how do you prepare users for something like this?
  • in US, activist culture is or can be somewhat performative, e.g. whose the baddest badass. the inextricable connection between corporations and the "stalker state". standing rock is example of how don't have to be a cop to act like a cop or do what cops do, e.g. private security acting as private actor, metadata there, things framed as benevolent, rich communities in latin america with drones and microphones and speakers, class-interest based security
  • how much has actually changed? sat on juries where 10 year old email used, those behaviors are where on social media... on one hand nothing new, but barrier to entry is so low
  • all for making things a little harder for them, often that can be enough to stop something bad from happening; instagram photo was of a group of people, one of the people was "one of the bad guys" and used photo as argument to create narrative that there was a bad connection. taking things out of context is a mass media education issues. would hope juries would
  • use of photos in immigration cases, tried to scare someone in admitting something they didn't do, have to prove all these reasons your partner needs to come to US but use of images to "prove" otherwise ... systemic issues... dealing with careerist agents
  • such an important story, easy to see as monolithic when actually they're sort of weirdly arbitrary and complicated ... but often drive by individuals
  • luck of the draw in terms in who you get
  • social media was found indepdnently
  • reducing attack surface; operating from place where you don't have to give your material out, gives leverage/power, can comporatmentalize fencing off FB from insta from dating profiles, living how you want online but not giving up too much information
  • working activists, subject to doxxing etc, but risks from violent white supremascists, ahsley madison breach became guide -- social media self-defense guide / use different email addresses, usernames across services, not putting same photo on things, takes a lot of work, mostly a lot of work to start and gets a lot easier from there, but even if one gets found or popped


  • wildly varying literacy
  • how much can be applied retroactively? really hard for people to start from scratch, but for actions and campaigns, how can people together operate? what do you when people's accounts are already linked? oh I posted those photos and now I really don't want them? what can be redacts?
  • it depends... on what trying to protect, who trying to protect it from ... but starting over is often best bet;
  • but databses with every tweet forever, held by secondary companies
  • start over meaning - scrap old username, create compartmenatlized one
  • can tiger swan see your posts vs what Fb has access to, what a stalker does... lack of context in images and stories in head of authorities, digital story telling disconnects people from context and reality
  • feeling some futility... good luck teaching teenagers to clean up their social media trails, but also pick up their socks ... how do you have conversation with 10 year old about putting mixes on soundcloud? setting up someone on computer who had been disconnected from that world, lack of awareness of relationship with state ... how to introduce kids to see it?
  • smart girl's guide to privacy, great for teen but tougher with younger kids ... not doing very good job of educating kids
  • or not even ourselves ... conversation with kid: "here's how I use it but I probably use it like garbage"...
  • for most people compartments aren't going to work -- practical security -- e.g. using whatsapp with no backups for immigrants, still provide connections with humanity ... danger of metadata .. does this activity need to be on social media? for activist life do I really need to use social media? using more ephemeral forms of communication. what values does social media give us? how do we lean into that?
  • sometimes in tech spaces real focus on the tools and not motivation for using the tools... at risk people not using signal isn't about signal, it doesn't make sense for the person... risk mitigation ... need to feel belonging and connection while lowering risk
  • harm reduction -- people aren't going to necessarily stop using apps
  • paranoia can be really harmful as well, even in teh face of real risk... tool is last thing in change... what is culture we're cultivating? how to handle concerns about infiltration?
  • talking with teenagers big issue ... people understand stories
  • in middle east people learn earlier to adopt different personalities, but still really difficult, hard to come to terms with ... no one from young age prepared me ... harm to sense of being
  • psychological impact on undocumented community is really intense, fear of being who people are in the world ... idealism of "we should be able to say what we want online" can be harmful, even acts of solidarity, well-meaning stuff
  • need to find better ways of doing it
  • everyone is performative on social media in fact .. whatever the persona is, it's crafted -- I'm a tough gangster or fancy executives or cool person who loves veggies ... actually really hard on us and important to this conversation
  • social media correlating with depressiion, suicidality, self-harm ... unintended consequences of way to connect
  • getting people to recognize we're already doing it is really powerful tool, using familiar concepts, use harry potter or other references
  • honing in that harm reduction without fear-mongering. how often does scaring people work / lecturing at them?
  • interesting how started with state and ended in broader conversation ... easy to talk about people in justice system, incarercated as unlike us