Project Veritas catfished Twitter staffers. Was it illegal?

When the political-action group known as Project Veritas came out with hidden-camera videos of a number of Twitter employees talking about the company’s practices last year, one of the mysteries was how the organization—infamous for its supposed “investigative” pieces on groups like Planned Parenthood—managed to record the videos. According to Kashmir Hill, in a piece published by Gizmodo on March 13, for at least some of the interviews the group created a fake startup and pretended it was interested in talking with staffers for potential jobs:

For four months last year, Norai thought he had a new job. He was in regular communication with his new colleagues, meeting up with them for dinner, drinks, and a baseball game, but they kept pushing his start date back, saying they were securing office space and finalizing funding. But in fact, there was no job. Tech Jobs Box wasn’t a real company.

In other cases, Hill says, male employees believed they were going on dates with potential romantic partners, who were actually secretly recording them. But isn’t this illegal in California, where both parties to a recording are supposed to agree before a recording is allowed? Veritas founder James O’Keefe said his organization believes that so long as the conversations occurred in public spaces where the other party had a reasonable expectation they might be overheard, the recordings aren’t illegal. A law professor tells Hill, however, that this applies to video but not audio.

Read more from The New Gatekeepers blog.

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Mathew Ingram is CJR's chief digital writer. Previously, he was a senior writer with Fortune magazine. He has written about the intersection between media and technology since the earliest days of the commercial internet. His writing has been published in The Washington Post and the Financial Times as well as Reuters and Bloomberg.