Kentucky’s Tweeting Governor Blocks Critics On Social Media… And He’s Not The Only One

By Brendan McCarthy and June Leffler June 15, 2017

Gov. Matt Bevin in recent months has turned to social media platforms to slam local media and share his political views directly with followers.

But as Bevin ramped up his criticism and online dispatches, he’s also blocked more than 500 Twitter users from following him, according to records released this week by ProPublica, a national investigative newsroom.

Bevin’s list of blocked social media users — obtained by ProPublica through a records request — includes many people who have shared their disdain for Bevin or President Donald Trump.

Bevin’s not alone in booting folks from following his 140-character messages. Trump has banned more than a few. Even Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had sought to silence some tweeting gadflies.

The practice, however, has potential legal ramifications and could soon play out in court.

Attorneys for several Twitter users blocked by Trump are arguing that his account is a public forum and that the government cannot constitutionally exclude critics, The New York Times reported this week.

The attorneys issued a letter to Trump and hinted that if the blocking continues, a lawsuit could follow.

Bevin’s office released the following statement Thursday:

Gov. Bevin is a strong advocate of constructive dialogue, and he welcomes thoughtful input from all viewpoints on his social media platforms. Unfortunately, a small number of users misuse those outlets by posting obscene and abusive language or images, or repeated off-topic comments and spam. Constituents of all ages should be able to engage in civil discourse with Gov. Bevin via his social media platforms without being subjected to vulgarity or abusive trolls.

The office also issue a tweet — citing a “#FAKENEWS ALERT” — along with a video criticizing the media.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office, which weighs violations of the Open Records Act, has never issued an opinion “about the nature of social media and whether blocking someone violates the open records law.”

To date, no one has filed an appeal challenging a public official’s social media blockade.

Beshear declined to share his views on the matter and called it inappropriate because the office may have to tackle the issue in the future.

Beshear said he has never blocked anyone on Twitter. The Twitter account of his predecessor, Attorney General Jack Conway, had barred several followers. Beshear said he had his staff unblock those users.

(How To Find Out Who Your Favorite Politician Is Blocking On Twitter)

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KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO FUND SOUTH CENTRAL KENTUCKY FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT CENTER

FunZilla is a state-of-the-art entertainment center to be located in Glasgow, Kentucky.

“FunZilla is committed to doing business well, as well as doing good with our business.”

— Charles Massie

GLASGOW, KY, USA, December 1, 2016 /EINPresswire.com/ — Glasgow, KY – A Kickstarter campaign has officially been launched for ‘FunZilla’, a state-of-the-art indoor Family Entertainment Center to be located in South Central Kentucky. The Kickstarter campaign aims to garner widespread support and financial backing to finance the acquisition of land and construction of the center. Projected opening of FunZilla will be in July, 2017.
Located just outside the city of Glasgow, Kentucky and only 8 miles from Interstate I-65, FunZilla will be housed within a 30,000 square foot building, situated on 3 acres of open land. FunZilla will be an entertainment center that offers a feature-packed, easy to reach party environment for groups of many sizes. The Company’s future plans include an ever expanding menu of party options, attractions and family enticements. FunZilla will feature a unique layout which will allow parents to join in the fun with their children, or simply enjoy watching them romp from a lounge with a set of viewing windows.
Inspired from the realization that a family-friendly, climate-controlled entertainment center didn’t exist in the immediate area, founder Charles Massie set out to provide a cost-effective solution that would appeal to all age groups and function as a leader in the community. “FunZilla provides numerable activities and events for everyone to find interest in. We call it the “Disneyland Effect”. Said Massie. “Most importantly, this also provides strong reasons for you to return regularly to the center for casual fun, special events and concerts. This will not be a “been there done that” experience.”
Some of the key features that will make FunZilla a major play destination for South Central Kentucky include; a gorgeous themed attractions incorporating interactive technology, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a video driving range, video batting cages, a rock climbing wall, and an amusement arcade packed with the latest games.
“FunZilla is committed to doing business well, as well as doing good with our business. We will follow ethical, sustainable, and transparent practices to make sure that we have the best social and environmental impact possible,” says Massie.
Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. ‘Backers’ who support a project on Kickstarter get an inside look at the creative process, and help that project come to life. All ‘Backers’ of the FunZilla Kickstarter campaign who pledge $25 or more will receive free admission to FunZilla for a family of four, plus a special gift from the Company. Additional rewards are available at higher pledge levels.
The Kickstarter campaign is officially open until January 1, 2017. For more information about the Kickstarter campaign, visit: http://kck.st/2fiv7D2

Charles Massie
FunZilla Family Entertainment Center
615-306-9481
email us here

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Louisville Police Have Quietly Built A Massive Online Monitoring Operation

By: Jacob Ryan, WFPL News

Louisville Metro Police

The Louisville Metro Police Department has spent nearly $140,000 in recent years on social media monitoring software that can track and compile data on a vast number of internet users.

Since 2014, the department has expanded the potential of this database, which can catalog up to 9.5 million social media postings and a limitless supply of individual profiles, according to a WFPL News investigation.

The department’s ability to surveil social media users comes with little oversight and no guiding policy, according to documents obtained through the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Department officials have declined multiple interview requests over the past two weeks. It remains unclear how LMPD uses this system, who they track and what becomes of their data.

To date, the department has provided virtually no detail about their relationship with SnapTrends, an Austin, Texas-based company that offers “location-based social insights” that provide a “the full story of every social conversation,” according to its website.

Police departments across the country spend thousands of taxpayer dollars to monitor local social media channels. The public agencies have said that monitoring Twitter and Facebook is now standard practice for law enforcement in the Internet Age.

But the mass surveillance of social media users raises concerns among privacy experts and civil liberty advocates.

“It undermines people’s speech and their associations when the entirety of their social media data is being analyzed by law enforcement,” said Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based research group focused on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues.

In paying for the social media tracking service, LMPD also utilized an exemption in the city’s purchasing policy that allows an agency to forgo a typical competitive bidding process.

No Policy, No Public Discussion

The police department’s purchase of social media monitoring software in March 2014 came just days after a group of some 200 young people caused several acts of vandalism and violence downtown, starting at Waterfront Park.

A gas station was ransacked. Cars sitting at traffic lights were pummeled, and robberies were reported. Police said they received some 30 calls for assistance in the downtown area that night, which resulted in 17 police reports and at least 10 assaults, said Chief Steve Conrad in a briefing days later. Conrad called it “truly mob-like behavior.”

Mayor Greg Fischer quickly ordered the installation of $230,000 worth of high-definition cameras in and around Waterfront Park. Police racked up more than $1 million in overtime pay in the six weeks that followed, according to a report from The Courier-Journal. And via a state-of-the-art crime information center in downtown Louisville, police began monitoring cameras across the city.

Just over a week later, department officials made their first order for a subscription to SnapTrends. The service is employed by police departments, school districts and foreign governments.

Louisville police’s first SnapTrends purchase in 2014 gave seven users the ability to monitor and store more than three million postings. Since then, the department has continued to expand on the subscription service.

In all, LMPD has paid nearly $140,000 for the program.

The most recent agreement allows 19 users to mine 9.5 million social media postings and create a limitless database of user profiles.

Metro Hall

Metro Hall

Conrad, the police chief, has publicly praised the push for other tech tools: more cameras, the opening of the crime information center and, more recently, the adoption of a gunshot detection system. But the proliferation of LMPD’s social media surveillance effort has flown under the radar.

There has been scant public discussion of the effort and no briefing to the Metro Council.

The department has issued no public report on the surveillance program, and LMPD’s transparency website provides no information about its use of SnapTrends.

Through a spokesman, the LMPD major in charge of the program declined an interview to discuss the department’s use of the software.

The police department also declined a records request seeking all archived social media postings from March 2014 to August 2016, as well as records of correspondence with SnapTrends. The department cited an exemption in Kentucky’s open records law that allows records to be withheld if their disclosure would expose a vulnerability in preventing or protecting against a terrorist act.

WFPL News has appealed that decision to the state’s attorney general.

Other Kentucky Agencies Monitoring Social Media

Statewide, police use of social media monitoring is a mixed bag.

In Lexington, the state’s second largest city, police use WeLink, a platform that bills itself as a digital-risk management tool. Police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said the agency uses the software to “monitor public social media posts for information that could involve threats to public safety.”

Bowling Green police officials previously considered purchasing software from LifeRaft, a Canada-based company. Officer Ronnie Ward, a police spokesman, said the agency  “looked at it,” but “so far, haven’t been able to outweigh the cost with the benefit of it.”

“We just can’t justify it right now,” Ward said.

Police in Paducah and Frankfort reported that they didn’t use social media surveillance software. Kentucky State Police did not return a request for comment.

Exemption Allowed LMPD Secrecy in Purchase of Monitoring Software

In Louisville, the LMPD made four payments to SnapTrends each ranging from $19,500 to $53,000, according to invoices obtained by WFPL News.

Louisville Metro government purchasing policy requires a contract for all purchases regardless of amount, according to an August 2016 internal audit of the city’s procurement policy. Purchases exceeding $20,000 are to be made using a Professional Service Contract, the audit states, which must be reviewed by the Metro Council.

Three LMPD payments to SnapTrends exceed that threshold, records show. Yet in response to an open records request, the police department said “no records exist” of a contract detailing the agreement.

An invoice from SnapTrends to LMPD for $53,000.

A SnapTrends invoice to LMPD for $53,000.

Erica Allen, an administrator in the city’s office of management and budget, said the police department’s purchase is considered “a subscription” and thus exempt from such requirements.

City purchasing policy provides an exemption to “memberships, dues and purchase of periodicals in either paper or electronic format.” Exemptions exist when competitive bidding is not feasible or practical, the policy states.

Metro Councilman David James, chair of the council’s public safety committee and a former police officer, said that policy is vague.

“I don’t think we were thinking in terms of a subscription costing over $20,000,” he said. “Technology has gone beyond what our public policy is that we wrote, and so we need to go back and look at it and change it to adjust to 2016.”

The section of Metro purchasing policy dealing with exemptions.

The section of Metro purchasing policy dealing with exemptions.

Widespread Scrutiny of Social Media Monitoring

The surveillance of social media by law enforcement is under scrutiny across the country.

Some companies assisting law enforcement with conducting mass online surveillance are under fire for misusing social media data to help law enforcement track certain communities.

For instance, Geofeedia, a Chicago-based company, had its access to certain social media user data severed earlier this month by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, after the ACLU reported it marketed its service as a way to monitor activists.

SnapTrends had its access cut by Twitter for similar reasons, according to a report from The Daily Dot.

A report from Bloomberg details SnapTrends use in the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, where the company provided Twitter data to a law enforcement agency classified by Human Rights Watch as a “death squad.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Chris Burbank, director of law enforcement engagement for the Center for Policing Equity and a former police chief in Salt Lake City, said police are likely conducting social media surveillance regardless of whether they’ve purchased a subscription with a software company like SnapTrends.

“I only see it getting more significant,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable, said Scott, national security counsel and director of the domestic surveillance project for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He said individuals can push back against efforts to monitor their online lives, or at least help ensure such programs are justified.

“With any of these large-scale surveillance activities, social media monitoring including, it’s important transparency, oversight and accountability are implemented, and there are mechanisms in place that ensure there is not a disparate impact with the use of social media monitoring,” he said.

With no policy guiding the the Louisville police department’s surveillance of social media, it’s unclear just how they do it. No regulations dictate who they monitor, what they monitor or why.

And the department has provided no details on what justifies a profile or post being collected, how long the information is stored and who has access to the data.

The lack of oversight is “troubling” to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

Widespread monitoring of social media by police can lead to the collection and storage of “innocent people’s personal data,” and how that data may be used is reason for concern, said Amber Duke, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Kentucky.

“Social media is, among other things, a driver for political conversation and activism,” she said. “Constitutionally protected speech shouldn’t make one a target for surveillance.”

Metro Councilman David James

Metro Councilman David James

James, the councilman, said he supports the police effort to keep watch on social media users.

“Public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of government, and this is just another tool in the toolbox,” he said.

James also said he doesn’t believe LMPD needs a policy to guide its surveillance effort.

“Why do you want to put more restrictions on the police than are on the general public? The general public can do the same thing,” he said. “They’re just looking at stuff that’s already out there.”

Walter Lamar, a former FBI agent and one-time senior adviser to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s office of law enforcement and security, said it’s difficult to argue against the need for a surveillance tool that can help law enforcement prevent crime or save a life.

“They’re just patrolling in a different venue, looking for criminal activity, looking for activity that might pose a threat or danger to the community,” said Lamar.

Burbank, of the Center for Policing Equity, said keeping the public out of such efforts can erode public trust in law enforcement.

“They have to write policy,” he said. “You can’t have a tool this strong and this powerful and this potentially invasive without some sort of policy.”

This story was reported by our affiliated newsroom, 89.3 WFPL News.

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