The Intercept: Facebook Warrant Targeting Student Journalists in Puerto Rico Prompts Fears of Political Surveillance by Alleen Brown & Alice Speri. After student protests to budget cuts at Puerto Rico’s university, seven were charged. Apparently Facebook search warrants were used:
How exactly Vázquez’s Justice Department determined which students to charge out of the dozens who participated in the protest has remained a mystery to defense attorneys. The lawyers’ suspicion: that the case isn’t about crimes committed in the boardroom that day, but rather an attempt to penalize the political activity of some of the most active student organizers. The seven facing trial were members of the student strikers’ negotiating committee as well as political organizations critical of the government.
“What we are alleging is that they selected them based on their participation in the strike, that those who were leaders in the strike were the ones who were selected,” said Marisol Sáez Matos, one of the defense attorneys on the case.
The documents released to defense attorneys provide further evidence of a broad and invasive hunt for prosecutable crimes related to the protests. An agent from the cybercrimes unit of Puerto Rico’s Justice Department sought a search warrant for the records of virtually every Facebook interaction over a 72-hour period with the three publications that livestreamed the protest. The agent obtained private messages with the publications’ followers and detailed information about the student journalists who managed the pages.
“We consider this to be a violation of our rights as a free press,” said Marisol Nazario Bonilla, who was Pulso Estudiantil’s director when the existence of the warrant came to light. She told The Intercept that the warrant could have put confidential sources at risk. “If this happened to a student media outlet, it could happen to local, national newspapers, or news outlets in general.”