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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.