Victory over obstructive social media firms

Some time ago I was approached by the family of Breck Bednar, a local 14 year old boy who was assaulted and murdered in 2014. Breck’s family, including his 17 year old sister, have been receiving very distressing messages via Snapchat, claiming to be from the convicted murderer.

Snapchat had refused to provide UK police with information that could prove vital in identifying who has been harassing the family. The messages sent over Snapchat included violent and sexual details of Breck’s murder, as well as threats to desecrate his grave.

The social media company has previously claimed it cannot release information about who sent the messages to the police due to American data protection laws.

I raised this at Prime Minsters Questions a few weeks ago and has been calling for social media companies to fully co-operate with police investigations, and for new powers to force them to do so if necessary. I also took Breck’s parents Barry and Lorin to meet the Home Secretary to raise the issue.

Since then, following Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s intervention with the US Department of Justice, it has emerged that Snapchat’s claims that they are unable to co-operate with UK police due to US law are untrue. Snapchat has now been made to provide the information the UK police need about who sent the messages, and from which device.

If this works, it will provide a powerful precedent that will enable UK Police to gather evidence from US social media firms much more easily in the future. I will keep pressing.