Independent journalist Kenneth Lipp attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference this week in Philly. Among the disturbing things he learned there is that Facebook is apparently teaming up with the Chicago Police Department to block people from posting to the social media website. More disturbing still is that this was disclosed in the context of a panel on law enforcement's response to "mass gatherings spurred by social media."
From Lipp's blog:
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) and device (he did not say if by UUID or MAC address or other means of hardware ID). Facebook’s Joe Sullivan was scheduled to speak according to the original schedule for the panel “Helping Law Enforcement Respond to Mass Gatherings Spurred by Social Media,” but was unable to attend (also present: Edward Flynn, Chief of Police, Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee, WI; Katherine McQuay, Assistant Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, DC).
Is Facebook really working with the police to create a kill switch to stop activists from using the website to mobilize support for political demonstrations? How would such a switch function? Would Facebook, which reportedly hands over our data to government agencies at no cost, block users from posting on its website simply because the police ask them to? The company has been criticized before for blocking environmentalist and anti-GMO activists from posting, but Facebook said those were mistakes. Let's hope this is a misunderstanding, too.
UPDATE: Lipp has posted an update, informing us that Facebook can block users from posting by taking note of unique identifiers in their phones or computers, and then blocking all posting from those devices.