#BlackLivesMatter Tracked by Oregon DOJ with Social Media Monitoring Software

by Kimberly McCullough, Legislative Director

privacy and tech imageAs we’ve previously written about, analysts at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) used a tool called Digital Stakeout to surveil people who used over 30 hashtags on social media, including #BlackLivesMatter and #fuckthepolice. Erious Johnson, director of the Oregon DOJ’s own Department of Civil Rights, was scooped up in this illegal dragnet and targeted for a threat assessment which included a review of hundreds of his personal tweets; a memo to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum flagging him as a potential threat to law enforcement; and an internal investigation into the matter which found that the search was “not in compliance” with state law and revealed a culture of self-reinforcing bias in the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon DOJ. 

Today, I want to take a closer look at Digital Stakeout, the tool the DOJ used to conduct these searches. Digital Stakeout is social media monitoring software (SMMS) that can be used to covertly monitor, collect, and analyze our social media data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It is part of a rapidly expanding industry that the public knows little about. The goal here is to answer a few basic questions about SMMS: What can the technology do? How widespread is the use of SMMS by law enforcement in Oregon? What privacy concerns does it raise? And how we can protect free speech and privacy moving forward?

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The Most Powerful Elected Official You’ve Never Heard Of

By David Rogers, Executive Director8 out of 10 DA races were uncontested

Do you know who your district attorney is? If you do, you are among a very small percentage of the public.

District attorneys (DAs) are arguably the most powerful people in the criminal justice system, but the public doesn’t know who they are. Why does this matter? In our latest report, Roadblocks to Reform, we identify district attorneys as a central barrier to criminal justice reform.

There is a growing national consensus that America’s criminal justice system has core problems. We lead the world in the use of incarceration, while prisons are the most expensive and least effective public safety intervention. Despite increased media coverage of deeply troubling criminal justice issues and attention from the public and other elected officials, the role of district attorneys gets little attention. Although police are responsible for arrests, prosecutors in district attorneys’ offices have a tremendous amount of responsibility in determining people’s fate once they enter the system.

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Criminalizing Kindness

Springfield Votes to Punish Good Samaritans, Homeless People

by Kelly Simon, Legal Fellow
person on the side of the road with signApril 19, 2016 - Cities in Oregon and across the nation are struggling with how best to address their growing homeless populations. Housing first? More social services? Unfortunately, cities often end up choosing what they incorrectly perceive to be most cost efficient: More policing.

The proliferation of low-level criminal offenses created to “regulate” homelessness has taken various forms—anti-panhandling violations, anti-camping offenses, exclusion zones coupled with trespass laws, and disorderly conduct laws. Now we are seeing a new group targeted with these type of offenses—Good Samaritans.

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ACLU Challenges Use of Disorderly Conduct Law Against Protester

rights of protesters imageApril 18, 2016 - Attorneys on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a friend of the court brief in the trial of Teressa Raiford in support of her free speech rights. In August 2015, Teressa Raiford was arrested and booked on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a protest in Portland that marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown. The brief urges the court to consider the legislative intent behind the disorderly conduct statute. 

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The Oregon DOJ Trains Agents on How to Break the Law

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

Mat dos Santos photoAfter about five months of waiting, the Oregon Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released its internal human resources investigation conducted by the special assistant attorney general looking into the surveillance of people on Twitter using #BlackLivesMatter. The report is damning. It paints an abysmal picture of rampant misinformation beginning with agents and analysists and running all the way up to the deputy attorney general, and shows how one mistake in judgment can lead to dangerous consequences for the public. 

If you’ve already read the report and exhibits, you know that the special assistant attorney general calls for changes in the DOJ's hiring to reflect a more diverse work force, as well as additional training on the laws DOJ agents broke when they collected information about the public’s political views. But you may have missed a critical piece of information that is buried near the very end of the over 150 pages of exhibits. DOJ’s very own training on this issue is fundamentally flawed. DOJ is teaching its agents how to break the law. 

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DOJ's Bubble of Bias

by David Rogers, Executive Director

public enemy logoThe special assistant attorney general finally released the long awaited report on Oregon Department of Justice’s surveillance of people using the Black Lives Matter hashtag among others. The report and the 162 page appendix is disturbing and reveals a range of deeply troubling issues about the Criminal Justice Division of DOJ, so much so, that we decided we needed to tackle it in separate posts.

I want to take a moment to explore what we learned about the implications of law enforcement’s echo chamber of prejudice and shallow cultural knowledge.

You may have already seen the media delight in the fact that DOJ analysts mistook Public Enemy’s logo as a sign of an imminent threat to law enforcement. (Public Enemy was a hip hop group popular in the late 80s and 90s whose music infused commentary about the political and social experience of Black Americans. “Fear of a Black Planet” still stands as one of my top ten hip hop albums of all time.)

As the DOJ was illegally examining the Twitter feed of one their own employees snared in the DOJ’s electronic surveillance of people who used the Black Lives Matter hashtag in Salem, the agent saw the Public Enemy logo with words from one of their live albums: “Consider Yourselves Warned!!!” Apparently, this image stood out along with a range of other satirical, political cartoons, and images even though these images are easily found on social media sites belonging to hundreds of thousands of reasonably politicized People of Color. The next thing that happened was a threat assessment report was written and went all the way to the desk of Oregon’s attorney general. Wait! What?

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