A little-known DPC task force overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Social Media Exploitation Team, or SOMEX, has been given wide leeway to investigate people on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, using fake social media accounts. provided by the FBI, in violation of the policies of some platforms, reports The Intercept. During the 2020 George Floyd protests, the team’s mission was to provide both the FBI and CPD with useful intelligence, but, instead, reported potential damage to police cruisers, investigated connections to social media from people who had made online threats and deleted videos for the department’s YouTube channel.
Squad supervisors had officers scour social media for posts that appeared to show arson or the destruction of police property, in an attempt to find footage from purported videos seeking to identify – essentially “wanted” videos – to be broadcast on the YouTube channel. They have also deepened their partnerships with surveillance technology teams, including Amazon Ring. SOMEX agents have wide leeway to investigate people using online pseudonyms that the FBI can provide. Agents are even allowed to take full control of informants’ online identities and, with their permission, impersonate them in their social media investigations. The SOMEX task force appears to be an attempt to formalize the DPC’s online undercover work.