DOJ's access to anti-Trump Facebook accounts challenged

Emmett Rice
September 30, 2017

The Trump administration has reportedly obtained search warrants that would allow them access the Facebook pages of thousands of anti-Trump protesters.

One of them, Talarico, ran the disruptj20 page which was used to coordinate the Inauguration Day protests a year ago.

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

The page, now called "Resist This" is public, but the warrant seeks the names of people who planned to attend organizing events and those who "simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on, or otherwise engaged" with the Facebook page, according to the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the three Facebook users, filed a motion to quash the warrants Thursday. Liked by 6,000 in individuals who may participated in the January 20 demonstrations, DOJ will have access to the names of all those people, plus anyone who marked themselves as attending disruptj20's protests, if a civil liberties organization is unsuccessful at halting or narrowing the Trump administration's warrant.

Scott Michelman, a lawyer with ACLU, told CNN: "What is particularly chilling about these warrants is that anti-administration political activists are going to have their political associations and views scrutinized by the very administration they are protesting".

None of the three individuals the government is seeking information were aware that they'd been targeted when DOJ first tried to snoop through their Facebook accounts because of a government gag order that's since been lifted, the ACLU says.

Facebook does not object to the effort to stop the searches, according to court records filed Thursday in D.C. Superior Court.

Donald Trump walks with first lady Melania Trump along the inauguration day parade route after being sworn in as the

Talarico and two other Facebook users slapped with search warrants, Lacy MacAuley, and Legba Carrefour, were not charged in those riots, LawNewz reported.

In the years since people began conducting their lives via electronic devices, courts have forced prosecutors to develop a two-step process for collecting electronic evidence without violating the Fourth Amendment's strictures against broad searches.

The warrants cover interactions and information from November 1, 2016, to February 9.

Among the information that could be exposed, the ACLU's court filing argues, is information about conversations with friends and family members, "intimate messages" sent to romantic partners and "detailed discussions" of having endured domestic violence.

This recent move by the DOJ to identify Facebook accounts connected to "anti-administration" activism nearly mirrors congressional efforts to unveil these fake accounts. The website's host provider, DreamHost, fought the request in court.

"Today we stood up for privacy rights", MacAuley wrote on Facebook, referring to the challenge in court.

Last month, DreamHost said it would not comply with a request from the DOJ to obtain "all information available" of the website disruptj20.org, because the broad warrant could reveal 1.3 million IP addresses that visited the site and could identify people who were involved in peaceful political speech.

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