US Immigration & Customs Enforcement used social media to monitor protests opposing Trump administration policies


US Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) used social media monitoring to track groups and people in New York City associated with public events opposing the Trump administration’s policies, including ones related to immigration and gun control. The investigative branch of ICE created and circulated a spreadsheet, entitled ‘Anti-Trump Protest Spreadsheet 07/31/2018,” that provided details of events planned between July 31, 2018, and August 17, 2018. The spreadsheet pulled data from Facebook, including the names of groups sponsoring events, the number of people who had registered on Facebook as attending, and the date, time, locations, and purposes of the events.

The spreadsheet raised concerns that ICE was engaging in widespread monitoring of certain groups because they were speaking out and because of who they were speaking out against, in violation of their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly. The spreadsheet was focussed on events organised by groups that opposed the Trump administration’s policies but did not include ones organised by white supremacist groups. A single conservative group appeared on the spreadsheet, but its event was described as a counter-protest.

Left-leaning groups listed in the spreadsheet included Rise and Resist, Young Progressives of America, Refuse Fascism NYC, NYC Says Enough, the New Sanctuary Coalition, and Gays Against Guns. A rally hosted by a Democratic Congressman representing part of northern Manhattan and the Bronx, held in opposition to a previous white supremacist, anti-immigrant rally, was also included: the event,  entitled “Uptown Standing Together Against Racism and Xenophobia,” was described as family-friendly and aimed to “push[] back against hate and tell[] . . . immigrant neighbors, . . . Latino neigbors, . . . Jewish neighbors” that people in the community would stand with them if they were targeted by hate groups.

Writer: Jimmy Tobias

Publication: The Nation