LAPD used fake social media accounts to spy on users, internal documents show

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) trialed an artificial intelligence program designed to pinpoint users likely to commit crimes using their friends lists, location data and analyses of their social media posts.

A substantial amount of internal LAPD documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice reveal that the department tried out Voyager Labs’ software in 2019, and considered a long-term contract before the four-month trial ended in November of that year.

The software was used to surveil 500 social media accounts and go through thousands of messages during that period, according to The Guardian.

Police said that data was used to get ‘real-time tactical intelligence,’ ‘protective intelligence’ for members of local government and the police department and to investigate cases related to gangs and hate groups.

Voyager Labs claims that their software can go further than scanning text for keywords. Using AI, their programs can gauge a user’s conviction to their ideologies using what they call ‘sentiment analysis’ and determine whether an individual with extremist views has the ‘passion needed to act on their beliefs.’

Facebook is demanding that the Los Angeles police department cease all use of “dummy” accounts on its platforms and stop collecting data on users for surveillance in a letter sent to LAPD chief Michel Moore.

Part of the letter reads. “Under our policies, developers are prohibited from using data obtained on our platforms for surveillance, including the processing of platform data about people, groups, or events for law enforcement or national security purposes.”

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