Facebook rocked by major new controversy

This is the scenario that many women’s rights advocates and pro-choice groups and activists fear.

The nine-member Supreme Court voted 5-4 in June to overturn the 1973 judgment known as Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion. He also voted 6-3 to enforce a Mississippi state law that would ban all abortions after 15 weeks.

The ruling conveys the abortion rights ruling to each of the country’s 50 states, about half of which are now expected to adopt some form of restriction or ban.

The move immediately sparked concern from pro-choice groups about the privacy of people seeking abortions or those who would help them, such as family members, doctors and nurses.

So the question arises: given the importance of technology in our daily lives, how will tech companies handle abortion data? Will they turn them over to the authorities of states that prohibit abortion or will they choose to protect their users?

Eyes were mostly on Alphabet (GOOGL) Google and YouTube, the Facebook of metaplatforms (META) and Apple (AAPL) especially.

We now have clues as to how social media giant Facebook might handle these situations.

What happened in Nebraska?

A 17-year-old Nebraska girl and her mother face criminal charges including performing an illegal abortion and concealing a dead body.

The case came after investigators uncovered details of the teen’s pregnancy and abortion through private Messenger messages given to law enforcement by Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

According to police and court documents released by MotherboardForbes and Lincoln Journal-Star, the messages leading to the abortion charges against the woman were gathered through a search warrant issued to Meta.

This warrant was requested by a detective who was looking to collect evidence related to other crimes.

Detective Ben McBride received a tip that Celeste Burgess and her mother, Jessica Burgess, buried a stillborn child given birth by Celeste. The couple told McBride that they discussed the issue on Facebook Messenger.

While sifting through Facebook data obtained as part of the warrant, investigators appear to have come across posts suggesting the mother helped her daughter get an abortion. The two women indeed discussed a home abortion method, the documents show. Celeste was then 28 weeks pregnant.

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Police used the conversation history between the two women to charge Jessica with allegedly performing an abortion 20 weeks after fertilization and performing an abortion without a licensed doctor.

No mention of abortion

“The warrants were for charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion. “said Meta communications director Andy Stone. on Twitter.

This position was later confirmed by Meta in a press release which you can read here.

“We received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,” the company said. “The warrants did not mention abortion at all.”

“Court documents indicate that police were investigating the alleged unlawful cremation and burial of a stillborn child at the time. The warrants were accompanied by non-disclosure orders, which prevented us from sharing any information about them. The orders have now been lifted.”

Facebook maintains the blur

By insisting that the warrant did not contain the word abortion, Meta is trying to brush off criticism from pro-choice groups and activists.

But the company does not say what it would have done if it had known that the data it provided to authorities would incriminate a woman or someone else for abortion.

This line of defense “would seem to imply that *if* the search warrants mentioned abortion, there would be a different outcome. But of course that’s not true,” tweeted Logan Koepke, nonprofit project director. lucrative Upturn. His research focuses on the use of new technologies and their impact on criminal justice.

“Unless Meta announces a new policy that they will oppose search warrants to obtain information in abortion-related investigations (which they are not), this sentence means nothing” , added Koepke.

Even though Nebraska’s abortion restrictions had been enacted long before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, who had been protecting access to abortion since 1973, the Burgess case appears to be the first major case – or at least among the first such cases. –in which private data provided by a social network was used in a criminal investigation related to abortion.

This case suggests that Meta can comply with requests from authorities seeking private messages, images, and any other type of message.

Some 16 other US states also limit or prohibit abortions in early pregnancy.

Meta encrypts its email services end-to-end, which means the company has no access to the content of the messages. Currently, only WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption.

In July, Google announced that it would delete a person’s location history after they visited medical facilities such as abortion clinics, counseling centers, domestic violence shelters. , fertility centers, addiction treatment centers, weight loss clinics, cosmetic surgery clinics and others.

About Dianne Stinson

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