Report: Justice Department subpoenaed Twitter data of everyone who ‘liked, followed, or retweeted’ President Trump

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WASHINGTON, DC – According to recently released court documents regarding the Justice Department’s legal case against former President Donald Trump, the Justice Department successfully obtained a search warrant for Trump’s Twitter account. Additionally, the warrant also compelled the social media company to share data on everyone who liked, followed, or retweeted the former president.

On November 17th, a judge’s ruling finally unveiled a heavily redacted search warrant related to Trump’s ongoing federal case that was granted in January of 2023, which the aforesaid warrant afforded the Justice Department a litany of data on not only the former president’s Twitter account but data on essentially everyone who interacted with Trump’s Twitter account during a three-month span.

The January 17th, 2023, warrant signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell, an Obama appointee, detailed in no uncertain terms the sweeping nature of the data Twitter was compelled to hand over to the Justice Department. While largely focusing on breadth of Trump’s Twitter activity such as accounts he followed, muted, unfollowed, and direct messages he sent and received, what’s most unsettling was the judge ordering the social media outfit to hand over data of everyone who interacted with Trump’s account between October 2020 through January 2021.

“All other content, records, and other information relating to all other interactions between the SUBJECT ACCOUNT and other Twitter users from October 2020 to January 2021, including but not limited to:
 
  1. All users the SUBJECT ACCOUNT has followed, unfollowed, muted, unmuted, blocked, or unblocked, and all users who have followed, unfollowed, muted, unmuted, blocked, or unblocked the SUBJECT ACCOUNT,
  1. All information from the ‘Connect’ or ‘Notifications’ tab for the account, including all lists of Twitter users who have favorited or retweeted tweets posted by the account, as well as all tweets that include the username associated with the account (i.e., ‘mentions’ or ‘replies’).”
To Twitter’s credit, at the time the search warrant was signed, the social media company attempted to contest the matter on two grounds, one being that the social media company believed Trump harbored legal standing to use executive privilege to block the warrant entirely and Twitter’s legal team claimed the non-disclosure element imposed upon the company violated their First Amendment rights.

Regarding the non-disclosure aspect of the warrant, the Justice Department was not only seeking information on innocent Americans for merely interacting with the former president’s Twitter account, but was also petitioning the court to make it so Twitter couldn’t tell anyone about the data being handed over to the federal government.

Despite Twitter’s legal arguments against the scope of the warrant and the non-disclosure aspect in tow, the legal challenges were ultimately unsuccessful and led to the Obama-appointed judge fining the social media company $350K for being contempt of court for not abiding by the timeline detailed in the original warrant whilst legal challenges were presented by Twitter.

Furthermore, an appeals court upheld Judge Howell’s ruling and imposed fine, claiming that Judge Howell “properly rejected Twitter’s First Amendment challenge,” and concluded “the court did not abuse its discretion when it ultimately held Twitter in contempt.”

Actions such as this being spearheaded by the federal government, initially in secret at that, will potentially contribute to concerns among Americans that their government may be targeting them - to some degree or another - for merely supporting the former president. Critics have said it’s one thing to execute a warrant on Trump’s social media activity in light of the indictment and investigation, while it’s something completely different to seek data on ostensibly millions of Americans who simply interacted with his social media posts.
 
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