— Lacy MacAuley (@lacymacauley) September 29, 2017
As we all know, issues of free speech are of the utmost importance to the current U.S. government. Which is why the Department of Justice is trying to force Facebook to disclose information about thousands of people who “liked” an Anti-Trump page. Because you’re allowed to freely share your beliefs…as long as they’re in support of your President. Or white supremacy.
The DOJ is demanding information on thousands of users of a page formerly known as DisruptJ20 (now Resist This), a Facebook group that originally formed to disrupt the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th. Six thousand people have liked the page before February 9th, when the DOJ secretly approached Facebook with search warrants. As reported by Fortune, “Although the page was public, the department is also after details of those who said they might attend events organized through the page, or who merely reacted to content shared from the page.”
That is all despite the fact that they say they are only targeting three people connected with the January 20th protests: Emmelia Talarico, an administrator and moderator for the DisruptJ20 Facebook page, and two other activists, Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour. The DOJ tried to place a gag order on Facebook, but Facebook challenged that, and the DOJ dropped that element of this case, which allowed Facebook to let those being targeted know what was happening.
If this were legitimately a case of concern regarding violence that occurred during the protests, and there were specific charges being made against specific people that would be one thing. However, the information that the DOJ is demanding of Facebook is wide-ranging and involves the personal information and activities of thousands of people, simply for “liking” a page that protests the government. This is terrifying.
Naturally, the ACLU is standing up to this, and is representing the activists in the case. ACLU lawyer Scott Michelman said, “The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person’s private information. Moreover, 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.”
What the ACLU is hoping for right now is a result similar to what happened with web-hosting provider Dreamhost last month. The DOJ had gone to Dreamhost first in its attempts to retrieve users’ personal information, as the DisruptJ20.org website ran off its servers. Fortune explains:
“Following considerable pushback, the DoJ dropped its attempt to extract information about more than a million people who visited the site, but it did succeed in getting a judge to order Dreamhost to hand over other site data. However, the court also ordered strict oversight for how the Justice Department could comb through the data it received, and forbade it from sharing the information with other government agencies.”
Right now, the DOJ is overstepping its bounds into the lives of private citizens, attempting to commit unlawful search and seizure in order to curtail citizens’ right to freedom of speech, which includes freedom of assembly. Yes, even on the Internet.
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