Slack Removed a Blog Post Showing How Police Use its Tech

Slack declined to say whether it is still working with the police department.
05 June 2020, 5:10pm
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IMAGE: SLACK LOGO EDITED BY CAROLINE HASKINS.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Slack recently deleted one of the company's own blog posts that explained how a local police department used the chat platform to share intelligence.

The move came after some Black Slack employees flagged the blog post years ago, one employee suggested on Twitter. Slack removed the post in the past few days in the wake of widespread protests about police brutality after a white police officer killed unarmed Black man George Floyd.

"These days, the Hartford Police Department’s intelligence sharing is primarily coordinated over Slack with more than 450 investigators and officers from all over the state," the blog post read, referring to Hartford, Connecticut, according to archived and cached versions viewed by Motherboard.

The post explained how the police department used Slack to post updates in a #department-wide channel, and use other channels such as #narcotics, #crimes, and #BOLO (be on the lookout). Sometimes the officers used Slack to track specific crimes, such as ATM robberies, the post added. The Slack team hosted over 450 members across 75 agencies and states, according to the post.

Do you work at Slack or did you used to? Do you know more about how Slack works with the police? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

On Tuesday, Slack tweeted, "We are horrified and sickened not only by George Floyd’s murder and the larger context of police brutality against Black people, but also by the pattern of violent response to largely peaceful protests. We stand in solidarity with our Black employees, customers, and community." The company added that its CEO, Stewart Butterfield, initially distributed a message internally about the issue, before the company published it publicly.

"We commit to following up publicly with the actions we will be taking. And in the meantime, we hope you all stay safe, that the current violence ends quickly, and that this crisis can be the start of structural change, finally, after hundreds of years. #BlackLivesMatter," the company Twitter account added.

In response, Megan Anctil, a former Slack employee, tweeted, "is one of those actions going to include taking down the blog post about working with the police that I and other black employees diplomatically asked to have removed three years ago that’s still up?"

Butterfield responded it was, and said Anna Niess, product design at the company, had also raised it internally that day.

In emails to Motherboard, a Slack spokesperson repeatedly declined to say whether Slack still has a relationship with the Hartford Police Department. The police department itself did not respond to a request for comment.

Slack has contracts with the Executive Office of the President, the State Department, the Department of the Air Force, and other government agencies, according to public procurement records.

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