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MALL OF AMERICA SECURITY CATFISHED BLACK LIVES MATTER ACTIVISTS, DOCUMENTS SHOW

(by Lee Fang || @lhfang)

Documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that security staff at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to monitor local Black Lives Matter organizers, befriend them, and obtain their personal information and photographs without their knowledge.

Evidence of the fake Facebook account was found in a cache of files provided by the Mall of America to Bloomington officials after a large Black Lives Matter event at the mall on December 20 protesting police brutality. The files included briefs on individual organizers, with screenshots that suggest that much of the information was captured using a Facebook account for a person named “Nikki Larson.”

Metadata from some of the documents lists the software that created them as belonging to “Sam Root” at the “Mall of America.” A Facebook account for a Sam Root lists his profession as “Intelligence Analyst at Mall of America.”

The fake Larson account featured a profile photo that a Google reverse image search shows is identical to a photo associated with a woman who is Facebook friends with Root.

The account, previously found at this url, was deleted soon after The Intercept contacted the Mall of America for this story.

On December 11, as news of the planned Black Lives Matter protest began to spread, the “Nikki Larson” account was updated with a banner image of an (apocryphal) Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” At some point, the Larson account “liked” the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Facebook group.

After the December 20 protest, the city charged 11 protesters with six different criminal misdemeanors. The city and mall are seeking over $65,000 in restitution for police and mall expenses.

Information collected from Facebook was used by the Mall of America security team to build dossiers on each activist. A document on Nekima Levy-Pounds, one of the activists charged by the city, includes screen grabs of  her Facebook account. Levy-Pounds, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, told The Intercept that the Larson account befriended her in December.

Another dossier profiling activist Lena Gardner contains pictures, a timeline listing where to spot her in videos from the protest taken by protestors and by Mall of America security, as well as information scraped from her social media accounts. Similar documents were created for at least eight other activists.

The Larson account appears to have been created in 2009, and had 817 friends, many of whose pages showed they were involved in Minnesota political activism. The account also “liked” Facebook groups associated with Ferguson activists, the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center, Occupy Minneapolis, SumOfUs, the SEIU Minnesota State Council, and Communities United Against Police Brutality, among others.

(Read the complete article via TheIntercept  ↳ here)