The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed Thursday that they were allowed to download the membership rolls of private Facebook groups. The results were that they found the members of extremist groups and police groups.
“We loaded those roughly 1 million names into a database and asked a simple question: How many people were members of at least one extremist group and at least one police group?” the report explained.
There were 14,000 hits that surfaced, they said, but they looked at just a mere fraction of the list. That’s when they discovered almost 400 users currently employed as police officers, sheriffs, prison guards or retired law enforcement that were also members of extremist Facebook groups.
Their researchers then tried to join the groups to see what was being said, and it was outright shocking.
“Officers engaging in conduct that calls into question their ability to serve their communities without prejudice,” the report revealed. “More than 50 police departments took action or launched internal investigations after we called them with our findings.”
They explained that they believed the public should have access to the information and detailed it in their full report.
“We started with a list of more than 1,200 extremist groups compiled by Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University and leading expert on extremism on Facebook,” the report detailed their methodology. “Squire, who has been scouring Facebook for extremists for a couple of years, methodically works through the platform, searching for groups with names that denigrate people by race, religion, gender or sexuality or that contain code words used by extremist movements. And because Facebook recommends new groups based on what Squire searches for, she would find new groups that way, too. When we reviewed the groups, we removed some from the list because we did not believe they met the criteria.”
Los Angeles Police Sgt. John Valdez was one of the officers exposed as member of an extremist Facebook group. In 2013, Valdez was involved in a non-fatal shooting of two people.
This only includes a small fraction of the 14,000 results they saw.