While it comes as no surprise that police monitored Facebook during last year’s Occupy protests, in the case of Occupy Miami an advocate/journalist was specifically targeted after his Facebook profile was subjected to police surveillance. An email produced in the court case revealed:
the police had been monitoring Miller’s Facebook page and had sent out a notice warning officers in charge of evicting the Occupy Miami protestors that Miller was planning to cover the process.
Significantly, the police tried to destroy evidence showing that they had unlawfully targeted the advocate, footage that (after having been forensically recovered) revealed that the charges laid against the advocate were blatantly false. That authorities conduct such surveillance – often without the targets of surveillance knowing that they have been targeted or, when targeted, why – matters for the general population because lawfully exercising one’s rights increasingly leads to citizens being punished for doing so. Moreover, when the surveillance is accompanied by deliberate attempts to undermine citizens’ capacities to respond to unlawful detentions and false charges, we have a very, very real problem that can affect any citizen.
We know from academic research conducted by scholars such as Jeffrey Monaghan and Kevin Walby that Canadian authorities use broad catch-all caricatures during major events to identify ‘problem populations.’ We also know that many of the suspects that are identified during such events are identically labeled regardless of actually belonging in the caricature population. The capacity to ‘effectively’ sort in a way resembling fact or reality is marginal at best. Consequently, we can’t just say that the case of Occupy surveillance is an ‘American thing’: Canadian authorities do the same thing to Canadian citizens of all ages, be they high school or university students, employed middle-aged citizens, or the elderly. These are surveillance and sorting processes that are widely adopted with relatively poor regulation or oversight. These processes speak to the significant expansion of what constitutes general policing as well as speaking to the state-born risks of citizens even in ‘safe’ countries using social media in an unreflective manner.