Advertisement

ACLU sues to block Justice Dept. warrants seeking Facebook user info

By
Ed Adamczyk
A reporter walks away from Washington, D.C., riot police as they begin to use pepper spray against protesters on the day of President Donald Trump's Inauguration, January 20. File Photo by Skye McKee/UPI
A reporter walks away from Washington, D.C., riot police as they begin to use pepper spray against protesters on the day of President Donald Trump's Inauguration, January 20. File Photo by Skye McKee/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to block what it says are multiple Justice Department search warrants seeking private information of three Facebook users.

In the ACLU's motion to intervene Thursday, it said the warrants violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

Advertisement

All three search warrants demand that Facebook provides access to information about three leaders of an anti-administration protest, which led to the arrests of over 200 people on felony rioting charges in Washington, D.C., the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20. They call for all information between Nov. 1, 2016, and Feb. 9, 2017, when the warrants were served, pertinent to the Facebook accounts of activists Lacy McAuley and Legba Carrefour and the account of the "DisruptJ20" organization, managed by Emmelia Talarico.

The people named by the Justice Department were not arrested or charged in the protest and the group has since changed its name to "Disrupt This."

RELATED Federal judge rules that Black Lives Matter can't be sued

The warrants also involve over 6,000 other Facebook users who "liked" the group's posts prior to Feb. 9. The ACLU filing said personal details of those who interacted with the page are part of the warrant.

"The warrants make no provision for avoiding or minimizing invasions into personal and associational/expression information, for preventing such information from being shared widely within the government, or for destroying irrelevant material when the investigation is concluded," the ACLU filing says.

The group's Facebook page is public, but the Justice Department is purportedly seeking information on those who responded to its content, Fortune.com reported Thursday.

RELATED Supreme Court cancels arguments on original travel ban

"The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person's private information," ACLU lawyer Scott Michelman said. "Moreover, when law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity."

Facebook was served with the warrants with an accompanying gag order preventing the company from telling those named in the warrants that the government was seeking their private data.

The three people named were informed after the government dropped the gag order following a Facebook legal challenge.

RELATED ACLU sues St. Louis for using 'kettling' tactic amid Stockley protests

Latest Headlines