THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook is challenging a court-ordered gag order in the US that bans the company from telling users that their accounts are the subject of a search warrant.
Buzzfeed broke the news that Facebook had been sent warrants for prosecutors to search three specific accounts, with accompanying NDAs that prevent it from informing the users.
Earlier this year, Facebook warned protesters who had been at a demonstration during President Trump's inauguration that police were investigating their social media accounts - the gag order may be related to that earlier case.
Details are still mostly sealed, although a recent filing suggests that the newest round of warrants is also related to the anti-Trump protests. The US Attorneys' office declined to comment.
After losing a challenge to the gag order in Superior Court, Facebook went to the DC Court of Appeals. This Court ruled that Facebook or the government could provide an unsealed notice about the case to any groups that either party thought might want to comment.
In a brief obtained by Buzzfeed, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Public Citizen Litigation Group wrote: "The Constitution can offer adequate protection only if the targets of seemingly overbroad warrants, such as those at issue here, know their rights are under threat."
The legal director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, Arthur Spitzer, told Buzzfeed: "This violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires that warrants must ‘particularly describ[e] ... the things to be seized' - a requirement that was designed to prohibit just such ‘general warrants.'"
Other papers show civil liberties groups, technology companies (including Microsoft, Google and Apple) and consumer advocacy organisations supporting Facebook in its challenge.
Facebook argues that the gag order violates its (Facebook's) First Amendment rights, "where the events underlying the government's investigation are generally known to the public." It also believes that the users should have the right to know about the warrants in order to fight them, as they could infringe on their right to anonymous speech.
Briefs in support of the government are due by the end of July, with the case to be heard in September. µ
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