Trump administration demands Facebook surrender information about hostile activists

Facebook is facing demands from Trump administration lawyers for account information of anti-government activists.

The Justice Department has demanded that the social media giant had over information from three accounts which were used to organise anti-Trump protests on inauguration day.

Should the department be successful it would be able to identify thousands of people who "liked" the Facebook pages.

Donald Trump's inauguration in January was marked with violent protests which saw 217 demonstrators arrested and six police officers injured.

At one point demonstrators smashed windows and hammered on windows of limousines as they passed by.

Police used smoke bombs to disperse the crowds.

The Department of Justice argues that the website, was used to organize "a violent riot."

Activists race after being hit by a stun grenade while protesting against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on the sidelines  - Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters
Activists race after being hit by a stun grenade while protesting against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on the sidelines Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters

A search warrant has demanded that Emmelia Talarico, the website's organiser, hand over lists of people who planned to attend the protests and also the names of people who liked the page or commented on it.

The demand is being opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has asked the courts to quash the Department of Justice's motion.

"Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy,"  Scott Michelman, a senior staff attorney at ACLU, told NBC news.

"When law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organising in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity."

Facebook spent seven months in the courts seeking the right to tell three people that their account information was being sought by the Department of Justice.

"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 on Friday. 

"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."