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Risk Alert: Social Media Trend Called ‘Audit the Audits’ – First Amendment Audits

A recent trend referred to as Audit the Audits of First Amendment Audits has become “the thing” on social media. Primarily, the videos are posted on YouTube and TikTok. The practice encourages its members to take pictures or videos from public spaces to “test” their right to film in public.

Often, the videos are of financial institutions, restaurants, and government buildings. The public space “passes” the test if the audit is uneventful.

The goal is to provoke a challenge to their First Amendment right to take the pictures and hopefully have law enforcement called. The encounter is then put on social media with the intent of making those being recorded look unfavorable.

Here is a recent exampleof one of these audits that happened in the Northwest.

A GoWest member credit union in Colorado recently had a similar experience with a member of this group. 

Credit unions should plan out their response if encountering a similar situation. Steps to take into consideration could include:

  • Don’t overreact. Auditors are trying to provoke a negative reaction that they can post on social media. A video of an employee responding calmly is not going to result in much traction. The best defense is simple patience.
  • Educate staff members. All public-facing employees should have some familiarity with First Amendment audits and how to respond. Although the auditors often exceed their rights under the First Amendment, they do have the right to film public employees in public places.
  • Close blinds to protect the privacy of the credit union.
  • Use privacy computer screen filters to prevent onlookers from viewing what is on the computer monitor.
  • Don’t engage, but if anyone does anything suspicious, alert authorities. Some auditors may engage in conduct that rises to the level of harassment.

Article used with permission from the GoWest Credit Union Association

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