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More Social Media Platforms Support Facebook’s Warrant Battle with the Government

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As readers of this blog are aware, Facebook is challenging the government’s broad warrant authority to seize social media information (In re 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook Inc. and Dated July 23, 2013). Fortunately for Facebook, they don’t have to face this battle alone. Recently, several social media platforms to include Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, and Tumblr have stated that they want to assist Facebook in its ongoing fight with the government. According to an article in the New York Law Journal

They see the warrants—or data including friend lists, photos and private messages, many of them from users who have yet to be charged and may never be—as a troubling message for digital-age privacy. Facebook has said it had previously never received so many search warrants…

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which sought the data for a sweeping disabilities-benefit fraud investigation, argues that the warrants were justified. Some 134 people have been charged so far, more than half have pleaded guilty, and prosecutors have said more could be implicated…

Acting Supreme Court Justice Melissa Jackson denied a motion by Facebook to quash the warrants. She approved the 381 warrants in July 2013, saying law enforcement has authority to search massive amounts of material to seek evidence.

She also directed Facebook not to notify the affected customers about the warrants. The case was secret until it was unsealed and Facebook disclosed it in June.Facebook and its supporters say that the judge’s orders violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

The Menlo Park, California-based company has turned over the information but is appealing the court order that required it to do so to the Appellate Division, First Department. The district attorney has moved to dismiss the appeal.

The case involves police and fire retirees, allegedly instructed to claim they were too psychologically devastated to work. Instead, they led robust lives—some flew helicopters, traveled overseas, did martial arts, went fishing—and sometimes aired the alleged proof of their active lives on Facebook, prosecutors say.Prosecutors have said they gave the judge 93 pages of details on why all the accounts were targeted.

But Facebook has said prosecutors cast too wide a net. Their campaign amounted to the online equivalent of searching “an entire neighborhood of nearly 400 homes,” the company said in a June court filing. The users ranged from high school students to grandparents, Facebook said.

Over the years, online companies have sometimes won, sometimes lost, in battling authorities’ demands for user information.

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