On Tuesday, January 17, representatives of the ACLU of Massachusetts and the digital freedom organization Fight for the Future will deliver messages from thousands of Boston residents to Mayor Walsh, urging him to drop the controversial Boston Police plan to spend $1.4 million on a social media surveillance program. The organizations are urging their supporters to call the Mayor's office on Tuesday morning to send the same message.
Since the plan came to light in October 2016, over three thousand Boston residents have taken action to oppose the plan by contacting their City Councilors and the Mayor or signing onto a petition.
The swell of public opposition to the BPD's plan comes in the wake of a December 2016 decision by Twitter to cut off social media surveillance companies from the company's "firehose" of information. Twitter made this decision after reports emerged showing that numerous social media surveillance companies marketed their products to law enforcement agencies using troubling language.
Records show the company Media Sonar boasted that its product could help law enforcement officials "avoid the warrant process" in investigations. Similar documents show that another company, Geofeedia, marketed its product to police departments as a means of spying on dissidents, including Black Lives Matter organizers. The Boston Police Department has contracted with Geofeedia in the past.
"Dragnet surveillance does not protect public safety, but threatens civil rights and civil liberties, chills speech, and provides another forum for the over-policing of Black and brown Bostonians," said Kade Crockford, director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty program. "We urge Mayor Walsh to listen to the concerns of community members and the over twenty organizations that signed on to a December 2016 coalition letter and drop this proposal now."