As details of the shooting death of 23-year-old Randallstown, Maryland, resident Korryn Gaines unfold, numerous questions linger about the rights of an individual during altercations with police. Now, with the news that her social media pages were deactivated during the standoff, many people are demanding answers as to how connected Facebook is to police officers nationwide.
Gaines was fatally shot by Baltimore County police officers following an hours-long standoff, during which she allegedly held her 5-year-old son hostage and repeatedly pointed a “long gun” at police, threatening to kill them. Her son suffered a gunshot wound during the altercation, but is expected to survive.
Officers involved in the matter revealed that during the standoff, on-scene command staff filed a request with Facebook to deactivate Gaines’ Facebook and Instagram accounts “in order to preserve the integrity of negotiations with her and for the safety of Gaines, her child and officers.” It has been alleged by the Baltimore County Police Department that Gaines was posting live video of the incident, and that followers were encouraging her not to comply with their requests that she surrender peacefully.
Baltimore County contends that Gaines’ accounts were not deleted, only deactivated, as Facebook maintains a law enforcement portal through which police can request assistance. According to the Baltimore County website, the department “applied for the exigency deactivation because of a barricade situation involving an armed subject with a child.” They also attest that the deactivation took almost an hour from when they made their request.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
There have been numerous complaints made by law enforcement surrounding the difficulties social media causes during standoffs and hostile negotiations with alleged criminals. Many of the issues include: 1) Giving away officers’ locations during pursuit of alleged criminals 2) Law enforcement not being in full control of all correspondence during standoffs 3) SNeverafety to both the officers and the alleged criminal.
To this end, most social media entities have enabled “request portals” to assist law enforcement in containing a situation by either deactivating a page during a hostile standoff or gathering and preserving evidence for both criminal and civil matters. In most cases, subpoenas are required, especially when it comes to obtaining any private information.
It’s important to note that law enforcement agencies do not have the ability to delete a person’s posts or accounts on social media and can only make the request.
Facebook has yet to comment on Gaines’ case.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
With the increase of video footage showing disturbing police interactions with civilians, the ability to shut down social media pages has far-reaching implications. When Philando Castile sat in a car dying after being shot by a cop, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed the remainder of the ordeal. Without that video, there would have been an absence of proof as to how the events unfolded, leaving it to be a police officers’ word against a civilian’s.
We all have a First Amendment right to post, communicate, or share whatever we wish, however, public policy and safety appear to trump this right.
Furthermore, all social media sites have user terms and agreements. When you accept these terms, it’s imperative to understand that what you post and share on these sites is not private. As a consumer, and a citizen, you are not in control.
This is especially true of live correspondence with your social audience. A video taped after an encounter has taken place is apparently perceived as less threatening to police than a real-time video.
It is the belief of law enforcement that live social media communication impedes their investigations, arrests, standoffs, and safety. And for now, at least, the law works in their favor.
PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter, Getty