President Trump’s Department of Justice alarmingly demanded the personal information of 6,000 Facebook users who “liked” or visited a page about an anti-administration protest on Inauguration Day. The American Civil Liberties Union of DC filed a suit on Thursday attempting to block the warrants, which were originally sealed under a court gag order.
The DOJ’s warrant targeted a Facebook page called “disruptj20” (now called Resist This) in an investigation related to more than 200 protesters who were charged with felony rioting during Trump’s inauguration.
The owner of the page, Emmelia Talarico, as well as two other activists—Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour—were named in the request. 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.”
Warrants were delivered to Facebook in February; a gag order was dropped by the government in September. All three plaintiffs were apparently unaware of the warrant until the seal was lifted. The ACLU’s case argued that the request violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of people who were associated with the page.
From the ACLU’s filing:
Despite their irrelevance to the government’s investigation and to the stated purpose of the warrants, these categories of personal and associational/expressive information must be disclosed to the government under the terms of the warrants. The warrants make no provision for avoiding or minimizing invasions into personal and associational/expressive information, for preventing such information from being shared widely within the government, or for destroying irrelevant material when the investigation is concluded.
If Facebook obeys the order, Talarico’s “personal passwords, security questions and answers, and credit card information” would be handed over—and, according to the ACLU’s filing, the DOJ would have access to “the private lists of invitees and attendees to multiple political events sponsored by the page.”
In a related request, the DOJ sought personal information on 1.3 million people who visited a website associated with the Facebook group, DisruptJ20.org. The website’s hosting service, DreamHost, fought the warrant and ultimately forced the DOJ to amend its request to exclude digital visitors to the site.