The DOJ is trying to force Facebook to reveal Inauguration protesters

If the DOJ succeeds though, thousands of Facebook users’ information could wind up in the government’s hands.
September 29, 2017, 12:30pm

The Trump administration wants to know who organized the black-clad agitators who ran through the streets of Washington smashing Starbucks windows and burning piles of “Make America Great Again” caps on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

And the Department of Justice has issued three warrants to force Facebook to reveal their identities.

While the warrants for information about “anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration’s policies” were issued in February, Facebook was under a gag order not to disclose their existence, according to a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday. But since the government dropped the gag order earlier this month, the ACLU is now trying to block the requests.

If the DOJ succeeds, though, thousands of Facebook users’ information could wind up in the government’s hands.

The warrants target three Facebook pages: the disruptj20 page, operated by Emmelia Talarico, which helped coordinate Inauguration Day protests in D.C., as well as the personal accounts of Legba Carrefour and Lacy MacAuley. Without the gag order, Facebook was also able to notify those involved that the government wants access to all their account and personal information for a 90-day period.

Here are some examples of the kinds of information the administration wants, related to the period from Nov 1., 2016, to Feb. 9, 2017:

  • The devices that the account holders used to access the account and how long each online session lasted
  • The users’ passwords, security question information, credit card information, and home addresses
  • If the users blocked anyone from seeing their accounts
  • Any information users might have deleted from their accounts
  • “Direct messages, chats, video calls, live streams, and Facebook Messenger communications”
  • All Facebook search records
  • Profile information, like status updates, comments, and wall postings
  • Friend lists (and the ID numbers associated with each friend’s Facebook account)
  • Groups or networks joined by the account or any event users expressed interest in
  • Rejected friend requests

Obtaining this information would mean that the government would know the identities of the approximately 6,000 Facebook users who’d “liked” the disruptj20 Facebook page prior to Feb. 9. That would open up a Pandora’s box of information pertaining to other events associated with the disruptj20 page, including intended attendees of the peaceful LGBTQ dance party outside incoming Vice President Mike Pence’s residence, according to court documents filed by the ACLU.

Currently, 214 individuals are facing felony riot charges for their alleged participation in disruptj20.

This isn’t the government’s first attempt at seeking information related to the event. The DOJ previously issued search warrants to web provider DreamHost that sought broad information about the approximately 1.3 million visitors to the website disruptj20.org. But the government backed off after challenges from civil liberties groups.