Court documents have revealed that a gag order from a U.S. court is being challenged by Facebook Inc. since it prevents the company from talking about three government search warrants that it said pose a threat to freedom of speech.
The social media giant revealed that it intends 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.
A statement issued by Facebook on Monday said that the company believes there are important First Amendment concerns with the case, including the government's refusal to let the company notify three people of broad requests for their account information in connection with public events.
The gag order was challenged by Facebook around the three warrants since free speech was at stake. Furthermore, the events underlying the government's investigation were generally known to the public already.
The nature of government’s investigation is not known. However, one document in the case said the timing of the proceedings coincides with charges against people who protested President Donald Trump's inauguration in January.
President Trump’s inauguration saw the arrest of more than 200 people in Washington. Masked activists threw rocks at police, and multiple vehicles were set on fire. In rare circumstances, companies such as Twitter Inc and Microsoft Corp have gone against the trend by challenging government orders. Unlike other tech firms that comply with thousands of requests for user data annually made by governments around the world.
Companies and privacy advocates argue that gag orders rely on outdated laws and are applied too often, sometimes indefinitely, to bar them from notifying customers about government requests for their private online data. Surprisingly, Facebook revealed that half of U.S. requests are accompanied by a non-disclosure order prohibiting it from notifying affected users.