Facebook challenges United States gag order, claiming free speech

Facebook challenges US gag order, claiming free speech

According to the limited information unsealed so far, Facebook received search warrants from the government for three account records over a three-month period.

Now barred from telling three of its users about government search warrants seeking to gain access to their information, Facebook is fighting back.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook is challenging a court-ordered gag order in the United States that bans the company from telling users that their accounts are the subject of a search warrant.

The underlying warrants are apparently calculated to invade the right of Facebook's users to speak and associate anonymously on a matter of public interest, and the First Amendment requires that the users be accorded notice and the opportunity to contest the warrants.

According to Buzzfeed, which first reported on Facebook's challenge to the gag order, the case is scheduled to be heard in September in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest court in Washington for local matters.

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Facebook and other tech companies face thousands of requests for user data every year from governments around the world, and typically comply with such requests, but have been known to challenge government secrecy orders in the past.

Facebook said it made a decision to challenge the order as free speech was at stake, and because the events surrounding the government's investigation were generally known to the public already, saying that "neither the government's investigation nor its interest in Facebook user information was secret".

In a brief obtained by Buzzfeed, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Public Citizen Litigation Group wrote: "The Constitution can offer adequate protection only if the targets of seemingly overbroad warrants, such as those at issue here, know their rights are under threat".

This story has been picked from a syndicated newsfeed.

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