Facebook, now known as Meta, warned the LAPD that its reported practice of setting up fake accounts to surveil users and collect their data on its platforms violates the company’s terms and policies.
In a cease and desist letter to police chief Michel Moore last week, lawyers demanded that the department stop creating “fake (or dummy) Facebook accounts” to “impersonate legitimate users.”
The missive came after internal documents obtained by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice in September showed the LAPD encouraged cops to collect social media account information from suspects and create a “Fictitious Online Persona” to spy on them.
According to documents, the department also collaborated with third parties that analyse social media data to find connections among users.
The NYU Law School Institute said the practice is unconstitutional as the social network admonished the LAPD for infringing on its users’ “First Amendment protected activities.”
“Our authenticity policies are intended to create a safe environment where people can trust and hold one another accountable,” Meta Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Roy Austin Jr wrote.
“Operating fake accounts violates the terms and policies that govern the Facebook service, and undermines trust in our community.”
The LAPD did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment, and a sergeant at its media relations division said he was “not aware” of the letter Thursday evening.
It’s not the first time Facebook has warned police departments not to impersonate users or make phony accounts. In 2018, the company rebuked the Memphis Police Department for creating a fictitious “Bob Smith” account to keep tabs on Black Lives Matter protestors.
“There’s no excuse for LAPD not to have known this,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a deputy director at the Brennan Center, told The Guardian.
“This is really important to help ensure the protection of activists for racial justice and social justice,” she reportedly continued, adding that she hoped the legal warning would put other departments on notice.