Suspension of Facebook profiles before royal wedding

Hannah Black made this Freedom of Information request to Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

The request was refused by Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

From: Hannah Black

18 May 2011

I am writing to request any information held by the MPS regarding
the suspension of Facebook profiles belonging to activist/political
groups in the run-up to the royal wedding on 29 April 2011. The
following groups were affected:

Open Birkbeck
UWE Occupation
Chesterfield Stopthecuts
Camberwell AntiCuts
IVA Womensrevolution
Tower Hamlets Greens
No Cuts
ArtsAgainst Cuts
London Student Assembly
Beat’n Streets
Roscoe ‘Manchester’ Occupation
Bristol Bookfair
Newcastle Occupation
Socialist Unity
Whospeaks Forus
Ourland FreeLand
Bristol Ukuncut
Teampalestina Shaf
Notts-Uncut Part-of UKUncut
No Quarter Cutthewar
Bootle Labour
Claimants Fightback
Ecosocialists Unite
Comrade George Orwell
Jason Derrick
Anarchista Rebellionist
BigSociety Leeds
Slade Occupation
Anti-Cuts Across Wigan
Firstof Mayband
Don’t Break Britain United
Cockneyreject
SWP Cork
Westiminster Trades Council
York Anarchists
Rock War
Sheffield Occupation
Central London SWP
North London Solidarity
Southwark Sos
Save NHS
Rochdale Law Centre
Goldsmiths Fights Back

Specifically I would like to know:

1. Can the MPS confirm whether or not they communicated with
Facebook about the blocking/suspension of these accounts? Were the
MPS or agents connected with the MPS involved in the suspension of
these profiles?

2. What if any ongoing communication is there between the MPS and
Facebook regarding activist/political groups on Facebook?

3. Please give access to any MPS records concerning the monitoring
of Facebook in the run-up to the royal wedding, and the rationale,
if any, behind blocking the profiles involved.

Yours faithfully,

Hannah Black

Link to this

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

20 May 2011

Dear Ms. Black

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2011050003125
I write in connection with your request for information which was received
by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 18/05/2011. I note you seek
access to the following information:

"I am writing to request any information held by the MPS regarding the
suspension of Facebook profiles belonging to activist/political groups in
the run-up to the royal wedding on 29 April 2011. The following groups
were affected:

Open Birkbeck
UWE Occupation
Chesterfield Stopthecuts
Camberwell AntiCuts
IVA Womensrevolution
Tower Hamlets Greens
No Cuts
ArtsAgainst Cuts
London Student Assembly
Beat***n Streets
Roscoe ***Manchester*** Occupation
Bristol Bookfair
Newcastle Occupation
Socialist Unity
Whospeaks Forus
Ourland FreeLand
Bristol Ukuncut
Teampalestina Shaf
Notts-Uncut Part-of UKUncut
No Quarter Cutthewar
Bootle Labour
Claimants Fightback
Ecosocialists Unite
Comrade George Orwell
Jason Derrick
Anarchista Rebellionist
BigSociety Leeds
Slade Occupation
Anti-Cuts Across Wigan
Firstof Mayband
Don***t Break Britain United
Cockneyreject
SWP Cork
Westiminster Trades Council
York Anarchists
Rock War
Sheffield Occupation
Central London SWP
North London Solidarity
Southwark Sos
Save NHS
Rochdale Law Centre
Goldsmiths Fights Back

Specifically I would like to know:

1. Can the MPS confirm whether or not they communicated with Facebook
about the blocking/suspension of these accounts? Were the MPS or agents
connected with the MPS involved in the suspension of these profiles?

2. What if any ongoing communication is there between the MPS and Facebook
regarding activist/political groups on Facebook?

3. Please give access to any MPS records concerning the monitoring of
Facebook in the run-up to the royal wedding, and the rationale, if any,
behind blocking the profiles involved."

Your request will now be considered in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the Act). You will receive a response within the
statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, subject to
the information not being exempt or containing a reference to a third
party. In some circumstances the MPS may be unable to achieve this
deadline. If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised
time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

Some requests may also require either full or partial transference to
another public authority in order to answer your query in the fullest
possible way. Again, you will be informed if this is the case.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet, which details your right of
complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write
or contact Katie London on telephone number 0207 161 3907 quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Katie London
Policy and Support Officer
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again ***

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the
decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from
the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with
the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for
a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 01625 545 700

The Metropolitan Police Service is here for London - on the streets and in
your community, working with you to make our city safer.

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system. To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law. Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents. The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

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Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

16 June 2011

Dear Hanna Black

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2011050003125

I write in connection with your request for information dated which was
received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 18/05/2011. I note
you seek access to the following information:

I am writing to request any information held by the MPS regarding the
suspension of Facebook profiles belonging to activist/political groups in
the run-up to the royal wedding on 29 April 2011. The following groups
were affected:

Open Birkbeck

UWE Occupation

Chesterfield Stopthecuts

Camberwell AntiCuts

IVA Womensrevolution

Tower Hamlets Greens

No Cuts

ArtsAgainst Cuts

London Student Assembly

Beat'n Streets

Roscoe 'Manchester' Occupation

Bristol Bookfair

Newcastle Occupation

Socialist Unity

Whospeaks Forus

Ourland FreeLand

Bristol Ukuncut

Teampalestina Shaf

Notts-Uncut Part-of UKUncut

No Quarter Cutthewar

Bootle Labour

Claimants Fightback

Ecosocialists Unite

Comrade George Orwell

Jason Derrick

Anarchista Rebellionist

BigSociety Leeds

Slade Occupation

Anti-Cuts Across Wigan

Firstof Mayband

Don't Break Britain United

Cockneyreject

SWP Cork

Westiminster Trades Council

York Anarchists

Rock War

Sheffield Occupation

Central London SWP

North London Solidarity

Southwark Sos

Save NHS

Rochdale Law Centre

Goldsmiths Fights Back

Specifically I would like to know:

1. Can the MPS confirm whether or not they communicated with Facebook
about the blocking/suspension of these accounts? Were the MPS or agents
connected with the MPS involved in the suspension of these profiles?

2. What if any ongoing communication is there between the MPS and Facebook
regarding activist/political groups on Facebook?

3. Please give access to any MPS records concerning the monitoring of
Facebook in the run-up to the royal wedding, and the rationale, if any,
behind blocking the profiles involved.

Before I explain the decisions I have made in relation to your request, I
thought that it would be helpful to outline the parameters set out by the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) within which a request for
information can be answered.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 creates a statutory right of access to
information held by public authorities. A public authority in receipt of a
request must, if permitted, state under Section 1(a) of the Act, whether
it holds the requested information and, if held, then communicate that
information to the applicant under Section 1(b) of the Act.
The right of access to information is not without exception and is subject
to a number of exemptions which are designed to enable public authorities
to withhold information that is unsuitable for release. Importantly the
Act is designed to place information into the public domain, that is, once
access to information is granted to one person under the Act, it is then
considered public information and must be communicated to any individual
should a request be received.
However, there are occasions when a public authority can neither confirm
nor deny that we hold the information. This can be on based on procedural
grounds such as the request is vexatious or repeated, or as in this case
to simply disclose whether we hold that information can be a detriment to
one of the exemptions provided under the FoIA 2000. The decision to
neither confirm nor deny is a separate concept from a decision not to
disclose the information and needs to be taken entirely in its own terms.

DECISION

In accordance with the Act, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for
this particular request under Section 17(4).

These are questions relating to the operational policing of extremist
organisations and as such the standard Neither Confirm Nor Deny approach
applies. This means that the MPS will not confirm either way, whether
communications with Facebook exist or whether requests regarding this
matter were/were not made.

Section 17 of the Act provides:

(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information,
is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision in part II relating
to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim
that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying
with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which-

(a) states the fact,
(b) specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption
applies.

The Metropolitan Police Service can neither confirm nor deny that it holds
the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following
exemptions:

Section 23(5) Information relating to the Security bodies
Section 24(2) National Security
Section 31(3) Law enforcement

Section 23 is an absolute exemption and therefore I am not required to
undertake any further assessment.

Section23(5) states:
23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security
matters
The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1(1)(a) would involve the disclosure of any
information (whether or not already recorded) which was directly or
indirectly supplied to the public authority by, or relates to, any of the
bodies specified in

Sections 24 and 31 are qualified, which means that we are required to
consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the
duty to confirm or deny outweighs the public interest in disclosing
whether the information is held.

Section 24(2) provides:
Information which does not fall within section 23(1) is exempt information
if exemption from section 1(1)(b) is required for the purpose of
safeguarding national security.
The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
exemption from section 1(1)(a) is required for the purpose of safeguarding
national security.

31 Law enforcement
(1) Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is
exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be
likely to, prejudice-
(a) the prevention or detection of crime,
(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders,
(3) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice
any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).

These are qualified exemptions for which I am required to conduct a public
interest test and provide evidence of harm.
Overall harm for neither confirming nor denying that information is held

It is likely that other areas, departments and partner agencies within the
Metropolitan area would have been involved in the operational policing of
extremist organisations for the Royal Wedding. To confirm or deny whether
we communicated with Facebook or monitored profiles, would compromise our
ability to continue our policing role, jeopardise police tactics and
reveal police capabilities. In this current environment of an increased
threat of terrorist activity, providing any details that could assist
extremists or criminals of any organisation would undermine the
safeguarding of national security. To enable the criminal fraternity to be
better informed about the intelligence, capabilities, resources and
tactics available to the MPS, would greatly impact on police resources in
planning future operations. There are criminals who would seek to obtain
tactical details to improve on their plans to avoid being detected and
apprehended. To disclosure any information is likely to impact on police
resources, should the MPS continually have to change their actions,
tactics and methodology due to a FOIA disclosure.

Disclosure, whether to confirm or deny would place the public at greater
risk in the future, if would-be criminals are provided sensitive tactical
and methodological detail. I believe disclosure would hinder the ability
of the MPS to prevent and detect crime if criminals become aware of the
resources and capabilities available to the MPS. This information can be
used to try and evade future detection. This is particularly so if the
public are aware of what type of intelligence and resources the MPS are
likely to have available and use, as it also indicates what information
they are likely not to obtain and decisions they may not take in a given
difficult circumstance.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S24
The information simply relates to national security and disclosure would
not actually harm it. The public are entitled to know how public funds are
spent.

Factors against confirmation or denial for S24
By confirming or denying that any information is held would render
Security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise of
ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infrastructure of
the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

Factors favouring confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying that any information is held would enable the
public to see where public funds are being spent, increase public
awareness which may reduce crime or lead to more information from the
public

Factors against confirmation or denial for S31
By confirming or denying that any information is held, law enforcement
tactics would be compromised which would hinder the prevention and
detection of crime. More crime would be committed and individuals would be
placed at risk. Security arrangements and tactics are re-used and have
been monitored by criminal groups.

Balance test
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police
service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so
would place the safety of an individual at risk or undermine National
Security. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of
policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is
appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by a
terrorist attack, there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding
both national security and the integrity of police investigations and
operations in the highly sensitive area of terrorism prevention.
As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is
appropriate and balanced, in matters of national security this will only
be overridden in exceptional circumstances. The areas of police interest
is a sensitive issue that reveals local intelligence therefore it is our
opinion that for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying
the locations is not made out.
However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any
information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
After weighing up the competing interests I have determined that the
disclosure of this information if held would not be in the public
interest. I consider that the benefit that would result from this type of
information being disclosed does not outweigh disclosing information that
may relate to National Security.

However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any
information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.

COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right of
complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please write
or contact Chris Oliver on telephone number 020 7230 0681 quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Oliver
Public Order Information Team
COMPLAINT RIGHTS

Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the
decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to
review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to
discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again ***

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to
telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision
letter.

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and
assist with any problems.

Complaint

If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of
the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding
access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the
decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing, within forty (40) working days from
the date of the refusal notice, and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192
London
SW6 1SF
[email address]

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your
complaint within 20 working days.
The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with
the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for
a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in
accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner
please visit their website at www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk.
Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 01625 545 700

The Metropolitan Police Service is here for London - on the streets and in
your community, working with you to make our city safer.

Consider our environment - please do not print this email unless
absolutely necessary.

NOTICE - This email and any attachments may be confidential, subject to
copyright and/or legal privilege and are intended solely for the use of
the intended recipient. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and delete it from your system. To avoid incurring
legal liabilities, you must not distribute or copy the information in this
email without the permission of the sender. MPS communication systems are
monitored to the extent permitted by law. Consequently, any email and/or
attachments may be read by monitoring staff. Only specified personnel are
authorised to conclude any binding agreement on behalf of the MPS by
email. The MPS accepts no responsibility for unauthorised agreements
reached with other employees or agents. The security of this email and
any attachments cannot be guaranteed. Email messages are routinely scanned
but malicious software infection and corruption of content can still occur
during transmission over the Internet. Any views or opinions expressed in
this communication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).

Link to this

Jason Sands left an annotation (16 June 2011)

Quote-marks I'd request an internal review, the exemption could only apply regarding Facebook profiles of extremist groups, the MPS should be readily able to comment on any groups they do not regard as extremist. It appears from their response that they have simply not considered this.

Link to this

Matt Flaherty left an annotation (16 June 2011)

Quote-marks While the response from the MPS is disappointing and arguably misdirected, it pays to remember why these Facebook profiles were suspended at all. They were suspended because they violated Facebook's terms. A profile may only represent a person, not an organisation. The organisations ought to have created pages instead. Facebook were not asked to take profiles down. They were simply informed of the profiles that were in violation. Anyone could have done this.

Link to this

Hannah Black left an annotation (16 June 2011)

Quote-marks As if it wasn't already evident from the timing that the profiles were not suspended just because they violated FB's terms - plenty of similar profile violations, inc. a member called Wiki Leaks, remain on facebook - then the grounds on which this request was turned down suggest that the suspensions were connected to 'anti-extremist' policing around the royal wedding.
Of course anyone could have done it - that's why we wanted to do an FOI request so the police could clarify whether or not they did it.

Link to this

Tom Griffin left an annotation (16 June 2011)

Quote-marks It's interesting that they invoked national security, given that it's supposed to be distinct from domestic extremism, according to the MI5 website:
https://www.mi5.gov.uk/output/domestic-e...

Link to this

Matt Flaherty left an annotation (17 June 2011)

Quote-marks The timing is of course interesting, but as regards other profiles that are in violation yet remain up, it's very likely that nobody has reported them. I'll bet if you report the Wikileaks one they will take it down. I would not expect Facebook to actively monitor this. I do not agree with the MPS invocation of exclusions here, but what you're asking for does not amount to much in my opinion.

Link to this

Oysterman left an annotation (13 October 2012)

Quote-marks Law society and exstremist group, I hope the MPS can prove that...I would sue.

Link to this

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