Prison Authorities Make Facebook Suspend Inmates’ Accounts – For A Very Different Reason, The Company Is Obliging

Being incarcerated means your ability to access social media accounts is also revoked. While prison authorities are slowly clamping down on Facebook accounts belonging to inmates, the social media giant is helping the authorities to suspend such profiles.

Imprisonment means you are cut off from the world and are to spend your days in a closed-off facility. However, prison inmates have found a way to keep their accounts fresh and active. Hence, in South Carolina, authorities are cracking down on inmates using Facebook, and the company is helping them.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), the agency that oversees the state’s prison system, uses fake Facebook accounts and obtains inmates’ passwords to catch them using the site. As per documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the agency zeroes in on suspected accounts and confirms that these belong to the inmates. Thereafter, the agency asks Facebook to suspend the prisoners’ accounts.

Since 2012, Facebook has suspended over 500 accounts at the behest of the SCDC, notes the report. That said, Facebook isn’t helping the authorities because accessing the site is banned for prison inmates, However, asking someone else to operate the account on behalf of the user is against the rules, clarified a Facebook representative.

“Accessing Facebook from prison does not violate our terms, but allowing another person to access your account on your behalf does. We will restrict access to accounts when we believe they have been compromised for any reason, including in the case of people who are incarcerated and don’t have Internet access.”

Following the bust, SCDC usually confines such inmates in solitary lock-up. The report confirms that SCDC has so far crammed 400 inmates in solitary confinement for using social media. The fact is South Carolina’s jails don’t even have the space to carry out all the punishments. Many of the incarcerated prisoners have their prison sentence miraculously shortened or suspended, but those accessing social media sites, while behind bars, are severely penalized.

Even though inmates who let family and friends post for them are in violation of the site’s Terms of Service, suspending such accounts may be seen as an act of censorship. Moreover, under the guise of violation of terms of usage, Facebook is apparently helping the government carry out its censorship agenda, says David Fathi, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.

“This is a clear First Amendment violation for a couple reasons. You have to realize that many of the web pages it targets are maintained by non-prisoners — their friends, or relatives, or supporters. South Carolina is trying to tell free people in other states, and even other countries, what they can and cannot post on the web. The First Amendment does not permit that. There’s also the rights of the prisoners, that are being violated — prisoners have First Amendment Rights.”

Inmates have long attempted to seek communication tools within the prison walls. But suspending their Facebook accounts might seem a little too harsh.

[Image Credit | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]