ACLU Demands Twitter Take Immediate Action to Stop Developers from Facilitating Government Surveillance of Users

A Twitter developer has provided police with tweets by activists and others involved in ongoing demonstrations against police violence

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San Francisco - ACLU Foundation of Northern California and ACLU Minnesota along with Color of Change and MediaJustice have sent a letter to Twitter this morning demanding that they take immediate action to prevent its developers from facilitating government surveillance of its users. Dataminr, a Twitter developer, has provided law enforcement with tweets by activists organizing and participating in ongoing demonstrations against police violence.

People across the country are protesting systemic racism and the police murders of Black people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade and using Twitter to connect and communicate as they march in the streets.

Police surveillance poses an immediate threat to Twitter users, particularly Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color, and is contrary to the company’s stated commitments to racial justice and free speech.

“Twitter is vocally supporting Black Lives Matter and marketing themselves as a tool for organizing against injustice, while sharing data with associates who continue to use the information to aid police surveillance,” said Brandi Collins-Dexter, campaign director with Color of Change. “Twitter can’t have it both ways.”

“It’s troubling that Twitter allows special data access to associates like Dataminr who compile and send cops these posts,” said Steven Renderos, the executive director of MediaJustice. “The police have a history of tracking Black activists; this is just the latest example of how tech companies are fueling racist policing in the United States.”

This is not the first time Twitter has provided user data to developers who used it for surveillance purposes. In 2016 an ACLU Northern California investigation uncovered Dataminr and others were providing data to law enforcement agencies in violation of Twitter’s own policies.

“We said that we would be watching these companies, and we are,” said Matt Cagle, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “We are working to ensure that Twitter and other social media networks protect users First Amendment expression with law enforcement agencies so that people, particularly Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color — are not subjected to further surveillance and state violence.”

Read the demand letter here.

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