Meta Wants to 'Correct Record' in Abortion Case

Company says warrant for Facebook messages didn't mention abortion
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2022 5:20 PM CDT
Meta Wants to 'Correct Record' in Abortion Case
Protesters line the street around the front of the Nebraska State Capitol during an Abortion Rights Rally held on July 4, 2022, in Lincoln, Neb.   (Kenneth Ferriera/Lincoln Journal Star via AP, File)

(Newser) – There was an angry backlash against Facebook this week after it emerged that it had turned over private messages that led to a felony abortion-related charge against a Nebraska mother—but its parent company says reporting on the case was "plain wrong." In a statement, Meta said it received "valid legal warrants" from law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v Wade. Meta said the warrants "did not mention abortion at all" and "court documents indicate that police were at that time investigating the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant."

In looking through the Facebook data, "investigators seem to have stumbled on the messages suggesting the woman helped her daughter seek an abortion," though Meta's statement didn't say "whether the company would have acted any differently had it known the potential outcome," writes Kurt Wagner at Bloomberg. The woman was charged with helping her teen daughter end her pregnancy at around 24 weeks, beyond the 20-week restriction passed in 2010. Digital privacy campaigners say that while the Nebraska charge was filed under an existing law, the case shows what could happen under new laws that states are passing in the wake of the SCOTUS decision, the Verge reports.

Meta and other Big Tech companies have "made lofty promises about defending access to reproductive healthcare," but their "hypocritical surveillance practices make them complicit in the criminalization of people seeking, facilitating, and providing abortions," Caitlin Seeley George at the Fight for our Future nonprofit said in a statement. Jake Laperruque at the Center of Democracy and Technology tells NBC that companies can expect to be served more warrants in abortion-related cases. "If companies don’t want to end up repeatedly handing over data for abortion investigations, they need to rethink their practices on data collection, storage and encryption,” he says. (Read more abortion stories.)

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