Facebook is fighting a court order that blocks the social media giant from letting users know when law enforcement investigators ask to search their online information, particularly their political affiliations and comments.
Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in the case, which resembles legal challenges throughout the country from technology companies that oppose how the government seeks access to internet data in emails or social media accounts during criminal investigations, The Washington Post reported.
Facebook is arguing in the D.C. Court of Appeals that the order violates First Amendment protections of the company and individuals.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment. Many documents have been sealed in the case and hearings have been closed to the public.
The timing of the investigation and references in court documents that have been made public suggest the search warrants relate to demonstrations during President Donald Trump’s inauguration, when more than 200 people were charged with rioting, the newspaper reported.
The search warrants at the crux of the case seek “all contents of communications, identifying information and other records” and designate three accounts for a three-month period in each request, according to a Facebook court filing.
A D.C. Superior Court judge in April denied Facebook’s request to end the gag order and directed the company to turn over the records covered by the search warrants to law enforcement. Facebook appealed and the appeals court allowed the company to share some details of the sealed case to seek legal support for its cause from other businesses and organizations. They have since filed public legal briefs supporting Facebook.
In the last six months of 2016, Facebook reported about 41,000 requests for information from the government and said it provided data in 83 percent of those cases.