Toronto Star

Activists upset by RCMP’s fake Facebook profile,

Mounties admit creating Facebook, Twitter accounts, deny using for surveillan­ce

- LAURENT BASTIEN CORBEIL STAFF REPORTER

Has a waddle of penguins ever “liked” your Facebook page? If so, your account may have been monitored by the RCMP.

Officers with the national police force used a Facebook profile to pose as a broke student to communicat­e with protest groups in Toronto, according to documents obtained under the Access to Informatio­n Act. Through the Facebook page, RCMP agents prodded organizers with seemingly innocuous questions.

“Will there be food and drinks?” an officer wrote on the Facebook page for an anti-Novotel union rally in 2012. “Cause I am on a fixed student income and will bring some buddies to add to the numbers if we can grab some free food.” In another instance, on the event page of a pro-Ukrainian demonstrat­ion, an agent asked organizers in January 2014, if they were planning on “walking anywhere.”

The social media account, which went by the name of Bebop Arooney and had a profile picture of three penguins frolicking on a beach, tracked the Facebook pages of more than two dozen organizati­ons in Toronto, ranging from Black Lives Matter Toronto and Idle No More to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Six Jewish and Palestinia­n groups were also monitored.

WWE wrestler Mick Foley also attracted the Mounties’ attention. A second RCMP social media account — @angrycitiz­en123 — followed Foley on Twitter.

The RCMP confirmed it created both profiles but said they were not used for surveillan­ce purposes.

“The (Facebook) account mentioned was opened in 2005 for operationa­l reasons, and since that time, the RCMP’s social media practices have changed and evolved and now we use an official media account for such purposes,” a spokespers­on said. “The Facebook account is historical and no longer relevant.”

The Facebook profile was deleted Thursday. The Twitter account was still online Sunday night.

Among documents obtained by the Star was a screenshot that shows someone was logged in to the social media account on April 13, 2015. At the time, the agency appeared to be monitoring a pro-Palestinia­n rally in Toronto.

“If there are no criminal investigat­ion ongoing, then monitoring these groups is potentiall­y problemati­c,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the Canadian Liberties Associatio­n’s Fundamenta­l Freedoms Program. “Even though we think of social media as stuff that is out there in the public, the privacy commission­er’s office made it clear that it doesn’t cease to be personal informatio­n just because it is in that kind of forum.”

The Facebook profile also appears to have contravene­d Facebook’s own terms of use. A spokespers­on for the social media giant said bogus accounts, even those created by law enforcemen­t agencies, are subject to removal. When reached last week by the Star, the targeted groups expressed frustratio­n with the RCMP’s social media snooping.

“This is the disgusting reality of working for justice for black people,” Black Lives Matter Toronto, one of the groups monitored by the account, said in a statement. “You get treated as a threat, like you were doing something wrong. This will not deter us.”

Lis Pimental, president of UNITE HERE Local 75, the union behind the rally against the Novotel hotel chain, condemned the RCMP for seeming to impersonat­e a protester.

“The idea that the RCMP would attempt to interfere with the charter-protected rights of workers simply underscore­s the importance of those very rights,” she said. “It’s unacceptab­le for any employer to do it. It is doubly unacceptab­le for the RCMP, who are supposed to be here to protect us, to do it.”

 ?? FACEBOOK ?? RCMP officers posed as Bebop Arooney, apparently a broke student with an interest in protest groups, on both Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook account, seen above, was recently deleted from the site.
FACEBOOK RCMP officers posed as Bebop Arooney, apparently a broke student with an interest in protest groups, on both Facebook and Twitter. The Facebook account, seen above, was recently deleted from the site.

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