The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the Memphis, Tennessee Police Department, accusing them of illegally surveilling members of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Following the lawsuit, the City of Memphis released documents detailing several tactics used by the Memphis Police Department (MPD) to keep track of activists and their activity on social media. According to the documents, the operation was led by the department's Office of Homeland Security.
This project was designed to "deal with threats" to the Police Department or to the city of Memphis, but its focus was redirected towards groups and individuals staging local protests, The Guardian has reported.
A significant amount of activists' personal information was obtained through "Bob Smith" a fake Facebook profile managed by the MPD. With this profile, the MPD posed as an anarchist activist liking different activist groups and befriended activists in order to track them through their reactions to certain posts.
According to the documentation, the investigation led to a presentation named "Blue Suede Shoes," which included information on activists who frequently attended demonstrations, such as headshots, names, close contacts and their association with movements. A PowerPoint presentation, which included information on people that had never been arrested at a protest or accused of breaking any laws, was also produced.
Through "Bob Smith," MPD agents would try and gain the activist's trust, mentioning local activists names and identifying himself as an activist and left-winged.
The information obtained and systematized in the presentation was used to brief police trainees on protests and their participants. According to the ACLU lawsuit, several local businesses also received information on these activists, since the data was shared with persons outside of the police department.