The Color of Surveillance: Examining the Complicity of Social Media Companies In Facilitating Law Enforcement Surveillance of Civil Rights Activism

This paper will demonstrate that social media companies themselves can play critical roles in regulating the use of their data and platform for surveillance, both by making affirmative changes to their own guidelines and policies, and aggressively enforcing violations of these terms. This paper will proceed in four parts.

  1. It will provide an overview of four key ways in which law enforcement have utilized social media to conduct surveillance.
  2. The paper will provide a brief overview of the constitutional rights implicated by such surveillance and discuss why the legal system may not be the most effective mechanism to challenge such surveillance in the short-term.
  3. The paper will turn to the platforms themselves, and perform a comparative analysis of their privacy and data retention policies, as well as their law enforcement guidelines.
  4. This analysis will inform the final section, which will provide recommendations for how platforms aiming to curb the use of their product and data for surveillance purposes can strengthen their own policies and guidelines in order to prevent such uses.
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