The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois sued the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Thursday to turn over records related to the department’s social media monitoring task force that was formed last summer. After an initial public records request, the CPD turned over all requested records except for the social media records.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Superintendent David Brown announced the formation of the social media monitoring task force in August 2020. This announcement followed months of protests after a police officer killed George Floyd. The task force was implemented to monitor social media sites 24 hours a day for the planned activity. “As we’ve seen over these past few months, social media platforms have repeatedly been used to organize large groups of people to engage in illegal activity,” Lightfoot stated when announcing the task force.
The ACLU alleges that the CPD violated the Illinois Freedom Act when it did not release the requested social media records. Ariana Bushweller, part of the legal team filing the lawsuit, stated that:
CPD must provide public records that answer basic questions about why the City is monitoring social media accounts, who has access to the information collected, and how that information is being used. The public needs this information to learn whether this latest surveillance is wrongfully targeting Black and Brown people, as has too often been the case across the country, including the surveillance of Black activists.
CPD explained that releasing the social media records would “compromise the vulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies and plans that are designed to respond to potential attacks upon the city of Chicago.”