ACLU on Trump protest warrants to Facebook: 'Disclosure' is illegal seizure

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The Justice Department wants to see the accounts of thousands of Facebook members who "liked" an anti-Trump page on the site and has filed search warrants to gain access to the accounts.

One of the activists is Emmelia Talarico, who organized a Facebook page that discussed protests on Trump's inauguration day.

The Justice Department is demanding the private Facebook account information of political activists, as part of its investigation into violent Inauguration Day protests.

Court documents that CNN obtained say the warrants pertain to 'anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies'. A separate warrant asks Facebook to reveal information about users who interacted with a page used to plan the protests. In addition to private lists of people who planned to attend Facebook events created by the page, the searches would include the names of an estimated 6,000 people who simply "liked" it during a three-month period covered by the warrant.

The group added that enforcing those warrants would "chill future online communications" of activists and those who talk to them, "as they will learn that no Facebook privacy setting can protect them from government snooping".

"Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy", said Scott Michelman, a senior staff attorney with ACLU-DC.

The ACLU is representing three of the DisruptJ20 activists, including Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour, in an attempt to challenge the warrants.

Trump protests at the center of insanely broad government requests for Facebook data
DOJ served Facebook search warrants against anti-Trump users

"We successfully fought in court to be able to notify the three people whose broad account information was requested by the government", a Facebook spokesperson said in an email.

The data requested goes back to November 1, 2016, the New York Post reported.

The ACLU says that all previous court filings other than warrants (including any response from Facebook) remain under seal. The DOJ also alleges that these two organizers incited a riot, according to the two warrants.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation at the time expressed some relief that the DOJ was no longer after more than a million IP addresses, but was still concerned that the agency was going after people who engaged in "activity at the heart of the First Amendment's protection". DreamHost fought DOJ in court and succeeded in having limitations put on what information it has to give the government.

"The Fourth Amendment prohibits "exploratory rummaging" by the government in a person's digital information, particularly when First Amendment-protected political and associational material is implicated", the ACLU said.

None of the three people in the ACLU filing has been charged by the US attorney with Inauguration Day-related crimes in which more than 200 people were arrested and accused of rioting.

The Justice Department is not commenting on these search warrants, but government attorneys have issued a similar search warrant to the web provider DreamHost seeking wide-ranging information about visitors to the website disruptj20.org, which provided a forum for anti-Trump protestors.

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