Criminal Justice

Police create disproportionate amount of social media posts about Black suspects, study finds

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In a study of about 14,000 Facebook pages maintained by law enforcement agencies, three law school professors found that posts about serious crimes overrepresented Black suspects by 25 percentage points compared to arrest rates.

The study was published Nov. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, titled “Police Agencies on Facebook Overreport on Black Suspects,” examined about 100,000 posts, as well as data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, to see how Facebook writings compared with local arrest statistics.

“A substantial body of research shows that crime news that is disseminated through social media exacerbates the public’s fear of crime more than news in traditional media. This may be due, in part, to the more active nature of reader engagement on these platforms—engagement (such as reposting and sharing) that may amplify racial stereotypes,” said Julian Nyarko, one of the paper’s authors, in a Nov. 2 Stanford Law School news release.

Ben Grunwald, a professor at the Duke University School of Law, and John Rappaport, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, co-wrote the paper with Nyarko, a professor at Stanford Law School.

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