Philly Police Arrest Teen For Anti-Snitching Twitter Account

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The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this month that someone had been posting sensitive information regarding witnesses on through an anonymous Instagram account ‘rats215.’A week later the Philadelphia Police Department arrested 17-year-old Nasheen K. Anderson, for posting similar documents on his Twitter feed. Although there was some overlap in the document posted, Philly PD have not confirmed any connection between Anderson's Twitter account and rats215.

 

Updated 11PM (PST)

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this month that someone had been posting sensitive information regarding witnesses through an anonymous Instagram account - ‘rats215.’

A week later (Nov 12) the Philadelphia Police Department arrested 17-year-old Nasheen K. Anderson, for posting similar information on his Twitter feed. He was charged with witness intimidation and terroristic threats

With no specific communication laws governing social media and the inability of companies like Instagram or Twitter to practice self-censorship more vigilantly, law enforcement agencies find themselves dealing with a criminal avenue that is hard to contain– the internet.

With no specific communication laws governing social media and the inability of companies like Instagram or Twitter to practice self-censorship more vigilantly, law enforcement agencies find themselves dealing with a criminal avenue that is hard to contain– the internet.

Related: 13-Year-Old Irish Teen Commits Suicide After Battle With Cyber bullies

Although there was some overlap in the documents posted on both social media platforms, Philly PD have not confirmed any connection between Anderson and rats215.  

With the purpose of outing ‘rats,’ and 'snitches,' these social media accounts are a blatant example of how dangerous social media can be.

Instagram took down the account on November 7.

The secret documents and photos revealed to the public in both cases could have deadly consequences for witnesses who may be targeted by criminals associated to a particular police investigation or others who simply hate snitches.

Social media witch-hunts are not uncommon. Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student was misidentified by Reddit users as one of the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects in the subreddit /findbostonbombers, before Tamerlan and Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev had been identified.

Read More: Body Of Sunil Tripathi, Student Wrongly Accused Of Boston Bombings, Found In River

What’s worse is that this social media 'outing' is fueling an already serious problem Philadelphia’s District Attorney's Office faces on a daily basis - witness intimidation. 

The Inquirer reported that the Instagram account, which had 7900 followers, had blown the lid on 30 witnesses since February, posting photos, police statements, and testimonies.

Philly PD began investigating Anderson's Twitter account Oct. 24, a week after he first posted court documents about a June 2012 drive-by shooting in Southwest Philadelphia. 

The Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Unit continues to investigate the rats215 Instagram account.

"These actions shoot an arrow through the heart of the criminal justice system, placing victims and witnesses at risk. [Accounts like rats215] should be voluntarily removed by the host of such sites,” according to Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives – a Philadelphia Police Department  Division.

One of the most disturbing aspect of this snitch witch hunt is the kind of followers rats215 had.

One follower posted the comment "Post some new rats…I needa put a hit out on them,” as recent as September

A 19-year old witness’s testimony – which took place in a secret court hearing – was also shared on instagram.  The witness was shot at in the months following the testimony.

Check out some of the reactions Twitter users had to Anderson's arrest last week:

What if police officers looking after the department’s social media had not discovered the sensitive material?

Who is responsible? Instagram/Twitter, the person leaking the classified information or the police for not discovering the leaked documents earlier?

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