MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jaws dropped in the courtroom today as activists heard just how dedicated the Memphis Police Department was to watching their every move on Facebook.
One sergeant was undercover with other officers assigned strictly to monitoring Facebook. The city admitted to using Facebook as their direct
connection to what’s brewing in Memphis.
MPD sais they used keywords to search and find info on activist events and plans on Facebook. They even searched using nicknames.
"I was surprised at how unsophisticated they used the social media platform," said activist Aaron Lewis, better known as Al Lewis.
Lewis helped to found the group Coalition of Concerned Citizens. He says he always knew he was under the microscope.
"At some point did they ever recognize that perhaps it was them that were being played and not the organizers?" he asked.
Mayor Jim Strickland told WREG’s Alex Coleman and Mary Beth Conley that there’s no such thing as snooping when it comes to safety.
"They were trying to anticipate hot spots of violence," Strickland said.
To which Lewis says — violence was never their intent. "We haven't hurt anyone. Who have we hurt?"
He said the city violated activists' constitutional rights.
Strickland says if the judge does side with activists and police are booted off social media he thinks it’ll stand in the way of spotting trouble.
"Cutting off the police department of all Facebook, I think would be a mistake," he said.
But Strickland says, whatever the judge decides the city will go with it.