WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is demanding the government drop search warrants that would allow them to access personal Facebook pages for protesters who are accused of planning several Inauguration Day demonstrations.
There were several backdrops across the nation’s capital where protesters took to the streets during Inauguration Day. Some were peaceful while others were not.
As part of the investigation, the government is reportedly targeting protests organizers and hoping to comb through their comments, photos and videos on their personal Facebook pages for more information.
“My main concern is that I don't want them rummaging through my personal information,” said Legba Carrefour. “I have a lot of non-protest-related activity on my Facebook account that I don't want them to see, including talking about medications, talking about mental health issues, talking about other friends' mental health issues.”
Carrefour is one of the three protesters whose personal Facebook account was subpoenaed by federal authorities.
“They are using this because I was a media spokesperson on behalf of the protests leading up to them,” he said. “To rummage through my account and to find out who I know … I feel like they are going to build a fishing expedition where they are going to go after increasing numbers of people.”
“There is a ton of people’s lives that they put on Facebook that are going to be exposed by these overbroad search warrants that we are seeking to have the court strike down,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Scott Michelman.
The ACLU is representing Carrefour and others who could be subject to the social media search.
“Our clients are not charged with anything,” said Michelman. “They are being targeted for reasons that have been under seal and because the government says, at least in the public portion of the warrant, that it is investigating the demonstrations that took place here on January 20. It is incredibly chilling to political speech and association when anti-administration dissidents are investigated by the very administration they are protesting.”
The warrants would reportedly require Facebook to disclose to the government all information from the personal Facebook accounts of DisruptJ20 activists, including Carrefour's from November 1 through February 9. For Carrefour, it is far reaching and a violation of the Fourth Amendment which protects personal privacy.
The motions to intervene and quash were filed in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday. Facebook did reportedly notify the users whose information is being targeted by the government.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said they do not comment on pending cases.