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Data from the LAPD’s Trial of ABTShield

The LAPD used a social media monitoring tool that harvested millions of tweets from users nationwide.

Published: December 15, 2021

As part of our free­dom of inform­a­tion lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Depart­ment (LAPD), the Bren­nan Center obtained Excel files from the LAPD’s pilot of ABTShield, a social media monit­or­ing tool created by a Polish soft­ware company called EDGE NPD. The LAPD conduc­ted a pilot of ABTShield in Octo­ber and Novem­ber of 2020, collect­ing vast amounts of data from Twit­ter. 

On aver­age, ABTShield sent the LAPD approx­im­ately 70,000 tweets every day in three differ­ent spread­sheets: tweets with LA-specific content (LA context), tweets from LA County (as determ­ined by Twit­ter’s geoloca­tion data), and English-language tweets. The LAPD asked EDGE NPD to track six subjects: domestic extrem­ism and white nation­al­ism, poten­tial danger, civil unrest, elec­tion secur­ity, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Amer­ican poli­cing. For each tweet, the original spread­sheets included the tweet’s content, “tags” that ABTShield categor­ized the tweet under, the user­name of the origin­at­ing account, and how many people viewed the tweet (i.e., the reach). As part of its review of the docu­ments in the litig­a­tion process, the LAPD redac­ted the user­name and the link to each tweet.

Addi­tion­ally, the LAPD iden­ti­fied several specific social media handles for ABTShield to track, which ABTShield included in the original spread­sheets. ABTShield compiled and sent the LAPD over 1,400 tweets from these handles over the course of the pilot, predom­in­antly “tagged” as part of the Amer­ican poli­cing and civil unrest categor­ies. The Bren­nan Center’s review of the spread­sheet indic­ates that the LAPD tracked at least three accounts — two anti-fascist groups and one account that provides updates on protests based on inform­a­tion it claims to obtain through police scan­ners and civil­ian reports.

The Bren­nan Center has rearranged the data to make it more read­able. Each of the sheets below compiles the data from the spread­sheets the LAPD received each day and specifies which of the six topics of interest was applied to each tweet. The Bren­nan Center also compiled the tweets that ABTShield gathered from the accounts that the LAPD selec­ted for close monit­or­ing. The original Excel sheets are publicly avail­able through the City of Los Ange­les’s public records request website.

Lastly, the LAPD and EDGE NPD jointly came up with the terms under­pin­ning ABTShield’s daily searches. (The Bren­nan Center received the list of keywords the LAPD reques­ted, but EDGE NPD subsequently added addi­tional terms, which the LAPD evid­ently agreed to; the LAPD did not produce – and appar­ently never received – the final list of keywords.) The table below compiles the keywords that ABTShield used for the LAPD’s trial and includes the number of times each keyword was mentioned in the tweets that ABTShield delivered to the LAPD. A pdf version of the table is avail­able here.