The social media giant has been snagged by a Philadelphia police corruption probe into a series of traffic stops and other interactions with citizens, as authorities are looking to determine whether the company helped to hide evidence of corruption in the department.
The Inquirer is reporting on Monday that a grand jury in Philadelphia has issued subpoenas to Facebook and its parent company, Instagram, seeking documents, emails, and other records related to a civil lawsuit filed by the city’s police union.
The Inquirers sources say Facebook and Instagram could face criminal charges.
Facebook declined to comment on the reports, but said in a statement that it “has never and will never knowingly knowingly facilitate, authorize or participate in the corruption of any public official, including police officers.”
The Inquires investigation of Facebook in Philadelphia was prompted by an undercover sting operation in October.
In an interview with The Inquires reporter, Emily Fazel, Facebook Deputy General Counsel John Biederman said that while he didn’t personally know of any corruption at the company, he was aware of a pattern of improper activity.
The company also said that the investigation has no impact on its ongoing compliance and oversight efforts.
Fazel, who previously worked at Facebook, told The Inquiring that she learned about the undercover sting during her reporting on the matter.
She said she was unaware of any wrongdoing at Facebook until she reached out to her employer.
“I was shocked to learn that Facebook was investigating the complaint,” she said.
“In fact, I had a conversation with the chief of police about the subject, and I told him I thought it was important that he understand what Facebook was doing and to be careful about what it was doing,” she added.
“Facebook had no intention of taking action,” she told The Associated Press.
“Facebook is a platform where we can create content, and there are ways to engage with the community in ways that aren’t illegal.”
In September, a jury awarded the union $20 million in a civil suit filed by former police officer and former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter against Facebook, Instagram and other companies, alleging that the companies helped conceal evidence of widespread misconduct by police officers.
The officers claimed they were targeted by social media trolls and falsely accused of stealing money.
Fellow law enforcement officers and union officials said that Facebook and other social media companies have taken steps to prevent this type of activity, including making it harder to report suspected corruption.
The Philadelphia Police Officers’ Association, a union for about 3,500 officers, said that social media platforms have taken significant steps to improve their transparency and accountability measures.
The group, which is led by officers, also has launched a petition calling on Facebook to investigate allegations of corruption against its police partners.
“There is absolutely no evidence of misconduct at Facebook or any other social network by Philadelphia Police Department officers,” said Peter J. O’Brien, the group’s executive director, in a phone interview.
“The city is in the midst of a systemic crisis that is affecting the quality of life of the city.”
Follow Laura Saunders on Twitter at @laura_saunders and Emily Felson at @emilyfelson.
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