Date
24 September 2017
Facebook has decided to fight the gag order around the warrants, saying there are significant  issues concerning free speech. Photo: Reuters
Facebook has decided to fight the gag order around the warrants, saying there are significant issues concerning free speech. Photo: Reuters

Facebook fights US gag order that it says chills free speech

Facebook Inc. is challenging a gag order from a US court that is preventing the company from talking about three government search warrants that it said pose a threat to freedom of speech, Reuters reports, citing court documents.

Facebook said it wants to notify three users about the search warrants seeking their communications and information and also give those users an opportunity to object to the warrants, according to a filing in a Washington, D.C., appeals court.

“We believe there are important First Amendment concerns with this case, including the government’s refusal to let us notify three people of broad requests for their account information in connection with public events,” Facebook said in a statement on Monday.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech.

William Miller, a spokesman for US prosecutors, declined to comment.

Facebook decided to challenge the gag order around the three warrants because free speech was at stake and because the events underlying the government’s investigation were generally known to the public already, Facebook said in the undated court document.

The precise nature of the government’s investigation is not known. One document in the case said the timing of proceedings coincides with charges against people who protested President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

More than 200 people were arrested in Washington the day Trump was sworn in. Masked activists threw rocks at police, and multiple vehicles were set on fire.

Tech firms comply with thousands of requests for user data annually made by governments around the world, but in extraordinary circumstances, companies such as Microsoft Corp  and Twitter Inc. have challenged government secrecy orders.

Facebook recently fought a secrecy order related to a disability fraud investigation, losing in April in New York state’s highest court.

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