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The urban city news source The Verge recently published an investigative report that reveals New York City cops have been abusing social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to spy and locate suspected criminals. But their snooping has landed innocent people behind bars. The article explores the story of Jelani Henry, who ended up in Rikers Island after authorities discovered he was friends with the East Harlem gang the Goodfellas, through Facebook.

Jelani’s story is just one of many where he was wrongfully accused and somehow unlawfully thrown into jail (for 19 months, and only to be suddenly released with no “explanation” or “apology” from the law). We’ve been warned of the dangers of sharing too much information online before, but the experience of someone faultless like Henry is so unjustifiable on many levels.

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The Verge did not excuse the excessive tactics of the police force that targets them, as the pieces suggests the NYPD performed racial profiling. Ben Popper, who wrote the article, observed that the “Goodfellas” crew, Jelani, and his brother Asheem reflected the “new reality for teenagers growing up at the intersection of social media, street gangs, and mounting law enforcement surveillance.” Jeff Lane, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, concurred that the young people of Harlem were under a kind of “tremendous surveillance” that kids from the Upper East Side are not. New York City cops have been greatly incarcerating gang members from the Bronx and Upper Manhattan for the last few years.

Accompanied the well-searched piece from Verge is a video that features interviews with the Henry brothers and their mother who raised them on her own. Both sources are incredibly eye-opening as while the nation’s been in protest-mode since the August 9th death of Michael Brown, there were already wars and a great deal of misunderstanding between communities and the police long before the news chose to show extensive coverage.


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