0311.50 Investigative Use of Social Media

Administrative Rules Adopted by Bureaus Pursuant to Rule Making Authority (ARB)
Policy number

0311.50 Investigative Use of Social Media


  • ORS § 181A.250 Specific Information Not to be Collected or Maintained
  • City of Portland Human Resources Administrative Rule 4.08(A) Social Media
  • Directive 0310.50 Truthfulness
  • Directive 0311.40 Personal Use of Social Media
  • Directive 0660.00 Management of Criminal Intelligence Files


  • Alias Social Media Account: A social media account maintained by a Bureau member under an alias name, or persona.
  • Criminal Intelligence: Investigative information that has been collected; analyzed and validated through police reports, field notes, records, systems, or databases to establish a link between entities and criminal activity. Intelligence includes information pertaining to the activities and associations of 1) Individuals who, based upon reasonable suspicion, are suspected of being or having been involved in a) the actual or attempted planning, organizing, threatening, financing, or commission of criminal acts; or b) criminal activities with known or suspected crime figures. 2) Organizations, businesses, and groups which based upon reasonable suspicion are suspected of being or having been a) involved in the actual or attempted planning, organizing, threatening, financing, or commission of criminal acts; or b) illegally operated, controlled, financed, or infiltrated by known or suspected crime figures.
  • Open-Source Social Media: Any Social Media content for which there is no reasonable expectation of privacy as defined by the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution and relevant case law.
  • Social Media: Websites and other forms of Internet communication used to provide or share information, ideas, messages, photographs, videos and other content.  Examples of social media sites include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr and LinkedIn. Social Media does not include sites primarily intended for commercial transactions such as eBay, or Craigslist.


1.      The use of social media for law enforcement purposes ranging from locating missing and endangered persons, tracking threats from extremist groups, and criminal investigations is increasingly essential to police functioning. The Bureau recognizes that its members may need to use social media for a variety of these legitimate purposes however;

2.      Law enforcement use of social media implicates core Bureau values of privacy, freedom of expression, and association. This directive seeks to establish rules that protect those values, while offering clear guidance to members about use. The Bureau expects its members to follow those rules and hold themselves to a high standard of professionalism when using social media for investigative purposes.  


1.      General Restrictions on the Investigative Use of Social Media.

1.1.   In accordance with ORS § 181A.250, members shall not collect or maintain information about the political, religious, or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities, and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct.

1.2.   Criminal intelligence is distinct from information gathered for a specific investigation Specific information gathered from social media as part of an investigation is not criminal intelligence unless it has been analyzed, validated, and is part of a broader profile of a person engaged in criminal activity or a criminal enterprise. Criminal intelligence gathered from social media must be gathered and maintained in accordance with Directive 0660.00, Management of Criminal Intelligence Files.

1.3.   Members may not use personal devices or personal accounts for investigative purposes.

1.4.   Members may only use deception on social media in accordance with the restrictions set forth in this directive. An authorized use of an approved alias account does not violate Directive 0310.50, Truthfulness.

2.      Open-Source Social Media Investigations.

2.1.   Members may access open-source social media for any valid law enforcement purpose.

2.2.   Any information retained, (e.g., transcribed, screen-shotted, or recorded) from a social media source should be documented in accordance with Section 5 of this directive.

3.      Alias Accounts.

3.1  Members may maintain an alias social media account, either individually or collectively with other members for law enforcement purposes, either

3.1.1        When the alias account and its purpose has been approved by the member’s supervisor; or in accordance with a unit Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that outlines the valid uses of social media for that unit.

3.2.   All Alias Accounts are subject to supervisory review.

3.2.1.       Supervisors may review a member’s Alias Account at any time.

3.2.2.       Supervisors shall include their subordinate’s investigative use of social media as part of their regular performance reviews, for compliance with this Directive. This review shall at minimum include review of one Alias Account.

4.      Alias Account Communication.

4.1.   Members may use Alias Accounts to communicate with persons when any of the following conditions is met:

4.1.1.       There is reasonable suspicion to believe a crime has been committed or is going to be committed;

4.1.2.       There is a specific threat to an individual or the public;  

4.1.3.       To maintain the alias established by the account, for example when contacted by another party.

4.1.4.       Any other use of an alias account must receive specific approval from a supervisor.

4.2.   For the purposes of this directive, “communicate” means only narrative communication with a specific individual or individuals such as a direct message or responding to another parties’ content. It does not include “liking,” “sharing,” posting curated content, or their equivalents.

4.3.   Units that expect members to maintain alias social media accounts, must develop SOPs governing the use of communications through alias accounts.

5.      Documentation.

5.1.   Any information obtained or retained (e.g., transcribed, screenshotted or recorded) from social media should be documented in an appropriate police report, case file, or in accordance with a unit SOP. If the information gathered is not part of a specific ongoing investigation the documentation should include a brief description of the law enforcement purpose for the capture.

5.2.   No communication through an alias account may be deleted or destroyed.

5.3.   Any communication through an alias account that is not covered by a unit SOP must be saved as a transcription, screen shot or photo.

6.      Refer to Directive 0311.40, Personal Use of Social Media, for rules governing personal use of Social Media.

Effective:        10/27/2023

Next Review:  10/27/2024

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