The Boston Police Department unjustly spied on thousands of social media posts, specifically targeting Muslims and African-Americans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
According to the ACLU, Boston PD used Geofeedia, an online surveillance system, to monitor online comments on topics ranging from religion to politics between 2014 and 2016
“The BPD treated ordinary citizens discussing ordinary affairs as justifiable targets of surveillance,” the group said in a statement. “What it did not do … was deter or help solve serious crimes.”
The civil rights organization claims the department unfairly surveilled African-Americans and Muslims by creating online alerts for particular Arabic words and the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #MuslimLivesMatter.
“The records demonstrate the clear need for both transparency and procedural safeguards to ensure that this type of software is subject to public scrutiny and ongoing oversight before it is used again,” the group said.
The Boston PD denies such claims, believing the ACLU are drawing dangerously misguided conclusions, according to Al Jazeera.
“Our main focus in all of this is public safety, not targeting speech, not targeting people’s political affiliations,” Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy told reporters. “Quite frankly, to have the ACLU even make that insinuation is not only insulting, it’s completely misinformed.”