DOJ served Facebook search warrants against anti-Trump users

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The Department of Justice has obtained three search warrants from a D.C. court to rifle through the accounts of three Facebook users who it says were involved in protests on Inauguration Day.

"Government agents would discover a detailed portrait of individuals' political activities and associations, including their political views and commentary; the pictures and names of individuals who participated in or organized political demonstrations, rallies, dance parties, teach-ins, and other political events; messages reflecting a user's involvement or affiliation with specific political organizations or groups; and political or organizational strategies for political activism - all regarding events unconnected to January 20", the ACLU brief said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the three Facebook users, filed a motion to quash the warrants Thursday.

In search warrants filed in court, government officials sought the disclosure of a wide swath of personal information from the Facebook accounts of two political activists and a page set up to coordinate protests of Trump on Inauguration Day.

CNN reported that attorneys for Talarico, MacAuley, and Carrefour described them as "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies".

The ACLU argues that without safeguards to limit what Facebook discloses or, in the alternative, what prosecutors are permitted to see, the search warrants are "manifestly overbroad", in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

After DreamHost protested the breadth of the warrant, which appeared to require disclosure of information on every visitor to disruptJ20's website, Judge Morin issued a September 15 order requiring the government to specify a plan to minimize prosecutors' exposure to extraneous information.

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In addition to the account of Talarico and her disruptj20 page, the search warrant also seeks all information about the personal accounts of Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour.

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".

"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.

Requested data would go back to November 1, 2016, a week before the presidential election.

Approximately 230 protesters were arrested, most on felony rioting charges, on Inauguration Day after some protesters threw objects at people and businesses, destroying storefronts and damaging vehicles. DreamHost fought DOJ in court and succeeded in having limitations put on what information it has to give the government.

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, which provided a forum for anti-Trump protestors. A court order prohibited Facebook from talking about, he said.