Justice Dept asks Facebook for private info from anti-Trump groups in warrants

The Justice Department is demanding the private Facebook account information of political activists as part of its investigation into violent Inauguration Day protests.

In three separate search warrants served to the social media giant in February, Trump administration lawyers sought troves of information from three Facebook users that include private messages and personal identifying information.

One of the users targeted by the warrants, Emmelia Talarico, who moderates the "disruptj20" Facebook page, intended to help organize Inauguration Day protests. In a court filing Thursday, the department said that if Facebook complies with Trump administration's demands, the government could gain access to the identities of about 6,000 other users, as well as her personal passwords and credit card information.

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The other two warrants pertain to the individual Facebook accounts of two others, Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, D.C., filed a motion to quash the warrants on Thursday, arguing that demands were unnecessarily broad and would require Facebook to provide the accounts' entire contents for a period of more than 90 days.

"The warrants make no provision for avoiding or minimizing invasions into personal and associational/expression information, for preventing such information from being shared widely within the government, or for destroying irrelevant material when the investigation is concluded,” the filing reads. 

The Justice Department has issued a similar warrant to the web hosting platform DreamHost, seeking information on people who visited disruptj20.org. 

Facebook challenged a gag order attached to the warrants earlier this year that barred the company from telling the users that their information was sought by federal law enforcement. The Justice Department eventually dropped that gag order.

“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. "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.”

Updated at 3:13 p.m.