Cops Breaking Facebook Rules, Creating Fake Accounts to Watch You—Here’s How to Spot Them

in #news3 years ago

 A scathing new report shows that Facebook is teeming with face  accounts—created by police officers to track their adversaries.  According to Facebook’s official terms of use, they are against the  rules, but cops seemingly couldn’t care less and keep making them  anyway. 

A recent case out of Memphis exposed the trend of fake law  enforcement accounts when protesters reacted to the police killing of  19-year-old Darrius Stewart. A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Tennessee uncovered evidence that the  police used what they referred to as a “Bob Smith” account to gather  intelligence on activists. According to a report out of NBC, 

Smith acted as if he supported the protesters, and,  slowly, they let him into their online community. Over the next three  years, dozens of them accepted his friend requests, allowing him to  observe private discussions over marches, rallies and demonstrations. In  public postings and private messages he described himself as a far-left  Democrat, a “fellow protester” and a “man of color.” But Smith was not real. He was the creation of a white detective in  the Memphis Police Department’s Office of Homeland Security whose job  was to keep tabs on local activists across the spectrum, from Black  Lives Matter to Confederate sympathizers. The detective, Tim Reynolds, outed himself in August under  questioning by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which  sued the police department for allegedly violating a 1978 agreement that  prohibited police from conducting surveillance of lawful protests. The  revelation validated many activists’ distrust of local authorities. It  also provided a rare look into the ways American law enforcement  operates online, taking advantage of a loosely regulated social media  landscape — and citizens’ casual relinquishing of their privacy — to  expand monitoring of the public.

Because fake Facebook accounts are not against the law, there is no  recourse other than reporting them to Facebook. However, when one goes  down, another pops up in its place. 

“Every high-tech crime unit has one,” said an officer who uses an  undercover account to monitor gang members and drug dealers in New  Jersey and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid having the  account exposed or shut down, according to NBC. “It’s not uncommon, but  we don’t like to talk about it too much.” 

Facebook has since deactivated six other accounts from the Memphis police department alone. As EFF recently reported, in  a letter to Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings dated Sept. 19,  Facebook’s legal staff demanded that the Memphis police “cease all activities on Facebook that involve the use of fake accounts or impersonation of others.” In the letter to the Memphis Police Department, Facebook further writes: 

Facebook has made clear that law enforcement authorities  are subject to these policies. We regard this activity as a breach of  Facebook’s terms and policies, and as such we have disabled the fake  accounts that we identified in our investigation. We request that the Police Department, its members, and any others  acting on its behalf cease all activities on Facebook that involve  impersonation or that otherwise violate our policies.

But this will likely never stop as spying on individuals through  social media has long been a tool of law enforcement. Some departments  have even gone so far as to steal other people’s images and use them as  their own. As TFTP reported in 2014, the DEA was caught stealing a woman’s photos and using them to create their own fake profile.  Out of 1,221 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that  use social media today, more than 80% of the responding officials said social  media was a powerful tool for crime-fighting and that “creating  personas or profiles on social media outlets for use in law enforcement  activities is ethical.” The good news is that while law enforcement continues to skirt the  policies of social media companies to spy on you, there are ways to spot  them. Below is a list of ways to spot fake Facebook accounts. 

How to identify fake accounts on Facebook:

  1. Account was made recently 2017, 2018.
  2. Account has no history published for earlier years, but Facebook says they have been a member since 2009, etc.
  3. Most fake accounts have 1 image or no real profile photo of the  person. Some may only have a select few photos over a long span of time.  A well seasoned user would have more photos posted over a long period  of time. A fake account may have 7-10 photos posted on the same day.
  4. User has very few friends in common and or friends in general.
  5. There is little to no interaction on their page with friends, no comments, likes or responses over their long time line.
  6. Profile picture seems to good to be true, that hot model added you today! They even messaged you and are interested in you!
  7. When in doubt use reverse image search. Take their image and see if it is a real person or not. You can do that here.
  8. When in doubt deny, deny, deny.

No one should ever consider their conversations on Facebook as being truly private.

My advice, stop using Facebook!

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So if the police befriend some sex offender and are able to catch him that way, you think that's bad? What about a terrorist? Serial killer? You all act like they are trying to catch you smoking weed or something. Police can friend request anyone they want, its up to you to accept or deny it.

Police aren't using these tactics to pursue sex offenders. They use these tactics to infiltrate protests and then bully them or often act as agents provocateur.