MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Police Department violated Facebook’s terms and conditions when an officer created a fake account.
Activists claimed MPD used the fake account, which went by the name “Bob Smith,” to spy on them in Memphis.
MPD was then sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, who accused Memphis police of illegally monitoring activists to stifle their free speech and protests.
During the trial, it came out that the officer using the fake account befriended activists and Journalists on Facebook to learn about planned protests and demonstrations for public safety reasons.
“Bob Smith was a fake profile that the Memphis Police Department used to political surveil me and my friends,” said Coalition of Concerned Citizens member Hunter Dempster.
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Facebook learned about "Bob Smith" and criticized MPD for setting up the account in a letter delivered to Police Director Mike Rallings.
The letter was written by Facebook’s Andrea Kirkpatrick, director and associate general counsel for security. In the letter, Kirkpatrick scolded police for using what the company considered fake accounts.
"… this activity violates our terms of service. The Police Department should cease all activities on Facebook that involve the use of fake accounts or impersonation of others," the letter said.
MPD said it deleted the account before receiving the letter dated Sept. 19.
However, a Facebook spokesman told FOX13 they found an “additional six accounts… we took action on them.”
FOX13 is working to find out if the other accounts had ties to the police department or any of its officers.
"It is time for the Memphis Police Department to start listening. When Facebook starts calling you out, you are doing something wrong,” said Dempster.
Police said they won’t comment until the investigation is over.
“We have received this letter; however, the account which was opened under the name Bob Smith was deleted prior to receiving this letter. No further comment will be made at this point pending ongoing litigation,” said public information officer Lt. Karen Rudolph.
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