Facebook’s massive purge of hundreds of page and accounts at the end of last year included some of the leading police accountability pages on the internet, and it has left the faces behind the pages with few answers.
From shocking bystander videos to heart-wrenching body camera footage, social media was known as a driving force for police accountability in America. That is, until 2018.
Police the Police, Cop Block, Filming Cops and Cop Logic were all included in a Facebook purge that publicly claimed to target pages that were violating the platform’s spam policies. But with it, came the largest collection of police accountability resources on the internet.
“Nothing has actually held police more accountable and done more for police reform than a viral video. So if they take away that opportunity for those videos to go viral, people aren’t going to know what’s going on,” said Jason Bassler, founder of Police The Police.
Police The Police was the largest page with nearly 2 million followers before it was taken down by Facebook and its founder is now concerned about how the lack of resources will impact police accountability efforts.
“Local media doesn’t have any incentive to try to cover those types of stories because they’re actually friendly with their local police departments. If the police start to feel betrayed by their local media, then they’ll be less likely to actually share information,” Bassler said.
But without the pages dedicated to police accountability, we wouldn’t hear stories about people like Roderick Talley…
Talley’s front door was blown off of its hinges and his apartment was raided by a SWAT team over false information from an informant who claimed Talley purchased cocaine from him. The only problem was that Talley had recorded everything with his home security system. His footage included a visit from the informant who rang the doorbell and then left without selling any drugs, followed by an undercover officer who came by to confirm the location.
“No one would listen to him. He tried to get his story to local media, and everything and this guy is an American hero,” saidMatt Savoy, co-founder of The Free Thought Project. “None of these cops were held accountable. So now, if we suppress that even more so, like what Facebook and Twitter is doing with us, and these videos aren’t allowed to be seen, then what’s the result of that?”
There is also concern that by stifling major police accountability pages, Facebook is helping to protect corrupt officers and departments.
“When the mainstream media, or the social media censors that, then it highlights the coordination between the mainstream media and the social media and the state,” said Ford Fischer, founder of News2Share.
In addition to targeting pages that share footage of police encounters from citizens, Facebook is also censoring pages like News2Share, which live-streams protests and arrests.
“Having that raw footage where you’re able to see the officer’s badge number and that kind of information that they’re going to make as difficult as possible for people to see if you trust them to just release it on their own,” Fischer said.
But the journalists and activists behind the police accountability effort refused to give up.
“It’s probably more important than ever to have independent media because with every tyrannical regime throughout history, one of the first things they want to do is to get rid of independent voices and independent press,” said Derrick Broze, founder of The Conscious Resistance.
With no response from Facebook, and no indication that the pages will be restored, it has left many journalists and activists wondering how they will continue to hold police accountable in 2019.