Cop Block under fire for impropriety

Washington, DC (TFC) – What started as a personal feud in which some supporters of Cop Block allegedly orchestrated the release of two prominent female journalists’ nude photos has spiraled out of control, and is beginning to call into question the actions of some of Cop Block’s membership. Most of the controversy centers on a screenshot that appears to show one of the men behind Cop Block’s main Facebook page demanding money to share the articles of large alternative networks.

A member of Cop Block was allegedly demanding outlets “donate” money in the amount of $1000 per outlet, per month. So if an outlet refused to “donate” to Cop Block, the subscribers to Cop Block’s page would then lose access to that reporting. How does that fit into Cop Block’s mission of exposing the truth? The outlets named in the message were The Anti-Media, The Free Thought Project, and Counter Current News. This seems like an incredibly shady practice for an activist group that is entirely based on the premise of sharing information and public accountability. It raises a lot of questions about a police accountability organization that demands transparency. If Cop Block can be paid to run content, can it be paid to silence content? Where does this money go? Does the quality of the reporting not matter, or is it just who can fork out the cash? It seems shady and underhanded. Luckily, The Fifth Column has an on-staff expert in all things shady and underhanded.

Justin King indicated that news outlets often take cash to plant stories or products in their articles, while stressing that it wasn’t something The Fifth Column, The Anti-Media, or Digital Journal did. He said it was certainly an ethical gray area, but that it happened all the time. He described it as “common practice.” King has written for Cop Block in the past and was probably aware of why I was asking. He limited the conversation to news outlets, which are businesses, and never discussed activist groups or the act of charging to share a story. In reference to the leaked photos and backlash, he has publicly stated that the “hashtag and discussion need to end.”

If journalists self-censor to protect an organization we support, are we any better than the “thin blue line” Cop Block campaigns against?

The question is (and it’s a question that might be decided by this little scandal): Is Cop Block a business profiting off of the police accountability movement, or is it an activist group striving for police accountability and transparency?

The Cop Block Network page states:

“The funds raised will be used to further the Network and will operate similar to that of a non-profit. Ultimately, I – Ademo Freeman – will take responsibility for the funds and will personally provide donors of the network with a breakdown of funds raised and the allocation thereof each month.”

There is no public accountability of the funds, which is a little odd for an organization claiming to be “similar to that of a non-profit” that strives for transparency. Considering that the subscriber base of Cop Block’s fan page is the commodity being monetized, shouldn’t we all get access to this? In Cop Block’s defense, the merchandising they sell has a markup and there is certainly some profit, but it isn’t an insane amount of profit. It’s comparable to any other business.

Screenshot alleged to show prominent Cop Blocker demanding donations. Image source: Facebook

Screenshot alleged to show prominent Cop Blocker demanding donations.
Image source: Facebook

The actions of Cop Block make it a business that is selling their subscribers as a commodity, and an organization that is apparently willing to limit the effectiveness of its site and the cause for the sake of profit. In off the record discussions, many people expressed the idea “that everybody has bills.” If paying your bills are your objective, maybe marketing yourself as an activist group isn’t the best idea. If this was openly a for-profit corporation, the only scandal would be the alleged distribution of nude photos. Those associated with Cop Block have denied this allegation.

That allegation, if true, reeks of hypocrisy, considering Cop Block’s main page called for the arrest of officers that distributed nude photos. In a post on October 27, 2014 Cop Block lamented:

“Cops who admitted to stealing and distributing nude photos from the phones from young women they arrested have not, and likely will not be charged with a crime.”

But the integrity of Cop Block’s main Facebook page has certainly been called into question. Charging to share information related to the cause the organization is supposed to support is certainly unethical. I don’t see a “gray area.” It’s pretty black and white to me. It can be an activist group, or it can be an opportunistic profit-driven machine. Is it possible for it to be both? That’s something for their readers to decide.

Conflict of interest disclosure: Almost all of the staff of The Fifth Column is linked in some way to one of the news outlets named in the screenshot or Cop Block itself. The Fifth Column editorial staff has repeatedly said that they don’t censor their journalists. If you’re reading this and it isn’t heavily censored, I guess it’s true.

Editor’s Note: The names of the journalists who had their photos leaked were removed. It should also be noted that Cop Block is heavily decentralized and the actions of one or two members should not reflect on the whole group.  

BREAKING UPDATE: Factions of the Anonymous collective have chosen sides and started a small scale cyberwar over the incident. So far, no significant defacements or hacks have occurred.

6 comments for “Cop Block under fire for impropriety

  1. May 19, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    That is an absolutely inaccurate piece.
    Firstly, the affiliate program means that other websites contractually and voluntarily pay us a sum in order to use our social media outlets to post articles from their website. This allows small websites to essentially ‘advertise’ on the CopBlock ‘channel’. Many small websites have grown their audiences through this program and helped to add to the voice of police accountability and other pressing issues. All of these websites also receive income from advertising or other efforts. So their contributions to CopBlock are returned to them through their own profit networks.
    Running a website takes a lot of really hard work. I work a part time job, play in a band and have a rich social life. And yet I spend more time in a week doing CopBlock business than any of those, while making only a fraction of my rent doing it. The goal for us and all other activist websites is to bring in enough income to buy equipment, software and other necessities; which are far more than you would think. Having the tools and resources to do our job makes us more effective. And there is no resource more valuable than time. We would love to be able to modestly financially support a small group of activists who were willing to use that extra time to do more of what we do, and better. We are not even able to do that at this time. So the accusation that we are somehow rolling in the cash by exploiting the police state is both patently false and childishly naive.
    Of course we have to try to make money doing it. We are not receiving government checks to sit home and do it. We aren’t trying to get rich. We are trying to put the survival necessities in the background so we can put fighting cops in the foreground. We are all very passionate about what we do. And nobody here ever made a dime until they put in about 1,000 times more labor than you would get a dime for elsewhere.
    Finally, every month we also publish a detailed account of all income and expenses, as well as any remaining balances. These are sent directly to each and every CopBlock network affiliate.
    I won’t go on. I couldn’t read the article after that. Suffice it to say that two human beings, one from our website and one from another, had a situation. That situation turned into a flame war. The websites contributing to this drama are themselves just using a police accountability website to gain attention and get page views (with their resulting income) in the process. This adds nothing at all to police accountability. It is simply drama-baiting by less reputable websites who must mine better websites for their content in order to merely try and make a buck off it, with no socially redeeming outcomes whatsoever.
    Hope this clears things up.
    -Joshua Scott Hotchkin, editor and writer at CopBlock(dot)org since March 2015

  2. Johnny Rotten
    May 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    So, what do you have to say about those “leaked” nude photos? If you don’t want to look like a bunch of misogynistic bastards, then don’t act like it. It takes a low level POS to do something like that. Plus, a face saving “apology” by one of those scumbags does not do the trick. They’re just as bad as the cops you mysogonist supporting asswipes rail against. Clean up your own sh*t before taking a dump on others!

  3. Johnny Rotten
    May 19, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Btw, it says a lot about how you describe such a despicable act as a “situation”. With that kind of attitude, you may as well have been the one to distribute those photos yourself! I’m sure you’ll punish those scumbags about the same as a dirty cop gets punished! Hypocrites!

  4. Mitch
    May 20, 2015 at 5:27 am

    It stated in the above article it was Copblock supporters, so if two supporters of this website posted the fappening pictures, are the people who run this site responsible? I think that you may be over reacting, as the issue of someone posting leaked pictures and the murder of unarmed innocent people is just a chasm apart. I know which one I’d be more worried about. Misogyny is not nice, having your leaked pics on the Internet is not nice, but rape, murder and assault with weapons, kidnapping and imprisonment for none victim crimes is a CRIME.

  5. nonplussed
    May 20, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Since when does wanting to pay your bills mean you are for-profit?? Do you have any idea how many nonprofits spend at least 25% of their budget on administrative costs? You fail to understand the concept of profit. There is nothing worse than stupid criticism.

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