Facebook Takes Down New Mexico Civil Guard Account, but Prosecutors Want Social Media Giant to Hand Over Militia Group's Info
The militia group, New Mexico Civil Guard, has reportedly lost its Facebook account after the social media company took it down.
However, prosecutors, who had launched a legal action barring the group from acting as a paramilitary organization in future protests in the state, said Facebook deleted key evidence.
In June 2020, Washington Post reported that alleged New Mexico Civil Guard members had confronted protesters. The protesters wanted to topple a statue of a Spanish conquistador in Albuquerque, with incidents of gunfire and a protester being wounded.
The alleged shooter was reportedly not a member of the group, which has called itself the New Mexico Civil Guard. However, prosecutors had blamed the group for inciting the violence and sought a civil injunction to prohibit it from acting as a paramilitary organization in future public demonstrations.
Facebook has reportedly taken down the group's account as part of its own crackdown on extremist groups. Prosecutors are now asking Facebook to provide the data to confirm the group members and administrators of the group.
However, Facebook claimed that those records no longer exist as it was deleted after it banned the group as part of its August 2020 content moderation effort.
The Case Against New Mexico Civil Guard
The New Mexico Civil Guard started showing their presence last summer during the breaking out of several protests across the country. The self-declared militia group said they were keeping the peace at local protests, KOB 4 News reported.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez filed a civil lawsuit against the group in July last year, hoping that he would get a ruling from a judge that would ban militia groups from functioning in the state of New Mexico.
Torrez noted that the New Mexico Civil Guard used Facebook to recruit members and organize actions. He then asked the social media company to hand over data as he wanted to know who created the page and who managed it.
However, Facebook claimed that records were gone. Torrez said they find it hard to believe that "a trillion-dollar tech company" would be in a position that they would delete the said information and be unable to recover it.
Torrez argued that the company either deleted that information or refused to comply with his request.
Facebook Takes Down the Militia Group Account
On Monday, Raul Torrez filed a petition in a court in San Mateo County, California, asking the court to impose a subpoena ordering Facebook to turn over the group's account information, KRQE News reported.
The district attorney noted that it is particularly troubling that Facebook made the determination that the said pages contained extremist content and yet failed to preserve and maintain the basic account information.
Legal scholars and online privacy experts said these cases and others expose the lack of federal privacy laws written when email was the "hot new digital communication technology." They added that there was a need for legislation that addresses the retention of user records in the social media age.
Facebook argued that it offers a clear process by which authorities can request the company to preserve data relevant to investigators, adding that as long as they do so in a timely manner.
Facebook said they preserve account information once there is a request from law enforcement. The company noted that they would provide it in accordance with applicable law and the firm's terms once they receive a valid legal process.
In an emailed statement to Washington Post, Andy Stone, Facebook's policy communications director, said when they preserve data, they do so for a period of time, which can be extended at the request of authorities.
According to the law enforcement policy of Facebook, they preserve data requested by law enforcement for 90 days.
This article is owned by Latin Post.
Written by: Mary Webber
WATCH: District Attorney Files Lawsuit Against New Mexico Civil Guard - From KOB 4
Subscribe to Latin Post!
Sign up for our free newsletter for the Latest coverage!