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D.C. Police data breach reveals surveillance of clowns on social media

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In context: Remember the 2016 clown sightings? It was all over social media and national news, so it was hard to miss, but just in case: That year, numerous reports of creepy-looking clowns lurking in places they should not be, flooded into local police departments. Posts on social media were aplenty. The scare disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared.

According to an October 3, 2016, leaked document obtained by The Guardian, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC was monitoring several accounts on social media. The surveillance focused on individuals with clowns as their profile picture or who had user names like “snappytheclown” or “dmv_clownns.”

The scrutiny came after a group calling itself “Killer Clowns” made vague threats directed at public schools in the DC area. The document titled “Social Media Clown Threats” mentions that the group said that it was planning harm on or around Halloween.

One post from snappytheclown_ read, “Cardozo and Bell, [two DC area schools] here we come. The attack will be Monday at 3.30 PM after I prove you will join me in humanity’s annihilation.” A picture of two individuals in menacing clown costumes accompanied the post.

There were other postings listed in the document as well, and at one point, the Homeland Security Bureau became involved. None of the threats were ever acted upon, and killer clown sightings eventually passed away like a bad fad.

However, the MPD’s internal memo shows how seriously authorities took the pranks. Rest assured, they were not the only police department in the country spending time and resources on this ridiculous period in internet history.



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