McBride's affidavit states explicitly that police exhumed the fetus. "An exact cause [of death] was unknown but the lungs didn't indicate they'd ever contained any air." A final autopsy report "stated the cause of death was undetermined. The findings were consistent with the fetus being stillborn but the placement of the fetus into a plastic bag raise the possibility of asphyxia due to suffocation."[Do you work at Facebook? Do you know of any other cases where Facebook or another tech company has provided information about an abortion to law enforcement? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or securely on Signal: 202-505-1702]McBride told the court that law enforcement needed evidence from Facebook in order to determine "whether the baby was stillborn or asphyxiated."A court approved the search warrant, and Facebook complied with it, according to other court records. The Facebook messages appear to show Celeste and Jessica talking about taking abortion medication:
Facebook DMs obtained by law enforcement were then used as the main basis for a second search warrant, in which 13 laptops and smartphones were seized from the Burgesses; 24 gigabytes of data including images, messages, and web histories from their phones was extracted for the case.
Celeste: "Are we starting it today?"
Jessica: "We can if u want the one will stop the hormones"
Jessica: "Ya the 1 pill stops the hormones an rehn [sic] u gotta wait 24 HR 2 take the other"
Celeste: "Remember we burn the evidence"
Facebook and other tech platforms have previously declined to say whether they would give law enforcement data that relates to abortion cases. This case shows that Facebook, at least, will and already has. Digital SurveillanceAbortion rights activists, digital privacy experts, and anyone who is concerned about privacy in the United States have raised fears that people's digital communications, location data, period app tracking information, or other private data will be used against them to criminalize abortion. This Nebraska case shows that Facebook, at least, is willing to comply with court orders from states that have criminalized abortion. Facebook previously said it would ban users who posted that they would mail abortion pills to people in states where it is banned or restricted.An attorney for Jessica Burgess, the Nebraska County Public Defender’s office, who previously represented her, and the Nebraska County Attorney’s office all did not immediately respond to requests for comment.A jury trial is scheduled for October.Update, 8:40 p.m. EST:A Meta spokesperson tells Motherboard in a statement:
Another Meta spokesperson tweeted an identical statement shortly before the company contacted us with their comment.Joseph Cox contributed reporting.Clarification: This article originally stated that abortions are legal at 28 weeks in about half of all states. For an updated guide, please refer to Guttmacher.org. Nebraska’s abortion ban is 20 weeks “post fertilization.”
Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion. The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.
Both of these warrants were originally accompanied by non-disclosure orders, which prevented us from sharing any information about them. The orders have now been lifted.