On Monday, several activist groups penned an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that the social media giant implement an “anti-censorship policy” in its dealings with law enforcement personnel.
The request comes just weeks after the death of Korryn Gaines, the Baltimore woman who streamed her ill-fated encounter with police on Facebook Live. Gaines reportedly barricaded herself in her apartment with a shotgun as authorities attempted to serve a warrant for her arrest. She was ultimately shot dead with her 5-year-old son still in her arms.
Gaines’ live stream of the incident was temporarily disabled in what Facebook called a technical “glitch.” However, law enforcement officials confirmed that the social media site actually worked with them to shut down the young woman’s footage.
“We did in fact reach out to social media authorities to deactivate her account, to take it offline, if you will,” said Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson. “Why? In order to preserve the integrity of the negotiation process with her and for the safety of our personnel [and] her child. Ms. Gaines was posting video of the operation as it unfolded. Followers were encouraging her not to comply with negotiators’ request that she surrender peacefully.”
Signatories of the letter expressed dissatisfaction with Facebook’s handling of the situation and called for the social media giant to “stop this dangerous precedent of censoring users at the request of the police.”
“Facebook broadcasting is one of the most powerful tools in the world for documenting police brutality and raising awareness of the scale and systemic nature of police misconduct,” they wrote. “If your company agrees to censor people’s accounts at the request of police — thereby allowing the police to control what the public sees on Facebook — then it is part of the problem.”
Activist groups like the Black Youth Project 100, Color of Change, and MoveOn.org among others backed the idea of a new anti-censorship policy.
The signatories also demanded that Facebook explain its reasoning for shutting down Gaines’ account, clarify its position on collaborating with police and law enforcement to censor data and video, and institute a policy regarding the censorship of content and video that protects individual civil liberties and is transparent to the public.
“We know that you personally have taken a strong stand in support of the Movement for Black Lives,” the letter read. “You asked thousands of Facebook employees to recognize that there are patterns of discrimination and racism alive in the United States. Just last month, you hung a massive #blacklivesmatter banner on Facebook’s campus. And we hope that you will ensure that Facebook implements an anti-censorship policy that honors and respects Black lives.”
According to The Guardian‘s ongoing record of police killings in the U.S., Gaines is the ninth Black woman to be killed by police in 2016. Police have killed 10 more Black people since her death.