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US Justice Department sends search warrants to Facebook

US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SENDS SEARCH WARRANTS TO FACEBOOK

Facebook confirmed Friday that it has received warrants from the Justice Department for the data of three political activists who organized protests to criticize President Donald Trump.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a motion Thursday to block the search warrants and said the warrants also demand that Facebook hand over the information of thousands of Americans who "liked" certain anti-Trump Facebook pages.

The Justice Department says the information is crucial for investigating protests that occurred around Trump's inauguration in January. Prosecutors said the Facebook page for activist website DisruptJ20.org was used by protesters to organize "a violent riot".

The ACLU said that even though the search warrants only name three people, the Justice Department would be able to get the user information for around 6,000 people who liked the DisruptJ20 Facebook page from November 1, 2016 to February 9 of this year.

"Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy," Scott Michelman, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said in a statement.

"When law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity."

Facebook said it has successfully argued that the Justice Department had to allow the company to alert the activists who were directly named in the search warrants.

"We successfully fought in court to be able to notify the three people whose broad account information was requested by the government," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Anadolu Agency.

"We are grateful to the companies and civil society organizations that supported us in arguing for people's ability to learn about and challenge overly broad search warrants."

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