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Facebook takes on the US government over gag order

The social media powerhouse takes issue with a court order that prohibits it from informing three users that warrants have been issued for their data.

Brendan O'Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook is going up against the US over a gag order that it thinks impedes on freedom of speech. 

A court order prevents Facebook from telling three users that search warrants were issued for their account information, according to a report from BuzzFeed, which cited documents it obtained from the DC Appeals Court. 

The court has requested "all contents of communications, identifying information and other records related to three Facebook accounts for a specified three-month period of time," according to a notice from Facebook

The company said the government's investigation was not "secret," arguing that it would violate the First Amendment to deny the users "an opportunity to object to [the warrants] before Facebook produced responsive records to the government." 

No specifics in regard to the investigation were given. But one document suggests the issuance of the warrants coincided with arrests made against over 200 people for protesting President Trump's inauguration in January, according to BuzzFeed.

The matter, scheduled for a hearing in September, has triggered support for Facebook by eight tech firms including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, in addition to organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit champion of digital rights.

It's no longer unusual to hear about governments demanding user data, although it's mostly used to facilitate investigations into terror attacks. This has often been a point of contention between the government and tech companies, most notably last year when Apple and the FBI butted heads over cracking into the iPhone of a San Bernardino shooter. 

CNET has reached out to Facebook for a comment.

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