Is revealing the identity of undercover cops a freedom of speech issue?
Sep 22, 2022, 3:11 PM | Updated: 3:58 pm
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Pierce County Superior Court has charged a 21-year-old man with felony cyber harassment for revealing the identity of an undercover Tacoma police detective on Instagram, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. The Gee and Ursula Show asks whether First Amendment protections to the freedom of speech should exempt the accused from charges.
After spotting the officer at a street racing event, the 21-year-old man allegedly exposed the detective’s face, vehicle, and license plate. The two had a previous connection: the officer testified against the defendant in a DUI and reckless driving case the year before.
“I’m sorry, undercover detective, that you happen to be the same person who testified against someone in a trial earlier that year, and then you chose to go out and congregate with the same group of people in a different capacity in your job,” producer Andrew “Chef” Lanier said.
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“This is a free speech issue. To me, this is not an implicit threat against someone you are in public. It is your right as a citizen to photograph and take video or audio of anyone that you want in public. I’m sorry that you lost the game and you were outed. But this is not an implicit threat. This is a limiting of free speech.”
Chef made the point that exposing the identity of the cop is analogous to reporting highway speed traps on Google Maps or Waze, information that is publicly available through reporting to online platforms.
However, the history between the two suggests the Instagram post could have been retaliatory.
“It happened to be the same cop that testified against this guy, so there was a reason behind it,” Ursula said, pointing out that, regardless of the freedom of speech issue, the law is clear: the Cybercrime Act protects individuals from online threats against their safety.
“There’s a reason cops are undercover. Yeah, because they don’t want to be threatened,” Ursula continued.
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