DA asks California judge to compel Facebook to release militia data - Albuquerque Journal

DA asks California judge to compel Facebook to release militia data

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez asked a California judge on Monday to order Facebook to turn over information about a New Mexico militia group, alleging the social media giant has refused to produce documents subpoenaed for a lawsuit his office filed last year.

Torrez alleges that Facebook has either destroyed or withheld information related to a Facebook page created by leaders of the group, the New Mexico Civil Guard.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez

A Facebook spokesman responded Monday that the social media company cooperates with law enforcement requests as a matter of policy and remains in discussions with Torrez’s office.

“Facebook has resisted our attempts to secure this vital information, which will help us prove our case here in New Mexico,” Torrez, of the 2nd Judicial District, said Monday in a news conference.

The petition, filed in California Superior Court for the County of San Mateo, California, asks a judge to enforce a New Mexico subpoena that would “compel Facebook to produce the requested information and records.”

The New Mexico Civil Guard is a heavily armed self-described militia group that showed up last year at several protests around Albuquerque, including a June 2020 protest of the Juan de Oñate statue in Old Town. Shortly after that protest, Torrez filed a lawsuit against the Civil Guard trying to limit its activities.

The lawsuit alleges that civilian militias can be activated only by the state’s governor. The Civil Guard was acting like law enforcement with no legal authority to do so, according to the suit, which remains pending.

Torrez said Monday that Facebook took down the group’s Facebook page in August 2020 after the company determined that the Civil Guard had violated the company’s policy barring hate speech and dangerous organizations from the social media platform.

“Throughout this period, we worked with Facebook to try and get access to account information so that we could understand who opened these accounts, how they were used and who maintained control,” Torrez said. “Facebook has at the same time refused the attempts by this office to secure basic information.”

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said Monday that the social media company preserves data at the request of law enforcement agencies and continues to work with the DA’s Office.

“We preserve account information in response to a request from law enforcement and will provide it, in accordance with applicable law and our terms, when we receive valid legal process,” Stone said in a written statement. “When we preserve data we do so for a period of time, which can be extended at the request of law enforcement.”

Torrez said he expects a hearing before the California judge by early 2022.

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