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November 15, 2021

Raul Torres

District Attorney Raúl Torrez Files Petition Against Facebook as Part of Civil Suit Taking on Far-Right Extremism

Petition filed by Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office Seeks to Enforce Subpoena for Account Information for Members of An Extremist Militia Group

Today Bernalillo County District Attorney RaúlTorrez filed a Petition to Enforce a Subpoena against Facebook, Inc., after the social media giant repeatedly refused to turn over account information pertaining to members of the New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG), an extremist militia group that was sued by the District Attorney’s Office for acting as an unlawful police and paramilitary force in violation of New Mexico law.

This third-party enforcement action was filed against Facebook in San Mateo County, California, after the company repeatedly objected to turning over non-content account information and claimed that the records had been deleted, despite the fact that Facebook designated the New Mexico Civil Guard as a “militarized social movement” and an “armed militia movement” in violation of the company’s policy on “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.”[1]

“Facebook is asking Congress and the American people to trust it to regulate extremist content on its platform and yet refuses to turn over basic account information about an identified extremist group that used that same platform to recruit, organize and direct its members to engage in unlawful activity,” District Attorney Torrez said. “We strongly disagree with Facebook’s assertion that the Stored Communications Act shields them from such a request and find it hard to believe that a trillion dollar tech company cannot retrieve account information about a group that the company removed from the platform because of its extremist activities.”

“Either they have the records and won’t turn them over. Or they permanently destroyed the records, which begs the question of how Facebook intends to prevent members of this extremist group from opening new accounts in the future,” Torrez added. “If they aren’t maintaining account information on dangerous individuals and organizations, then how can they possibly police extremist content on their platform?”

The underlying lawsuit, initiated by District Attorney Torrez in conjunction with the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) at Georgetown University Law Center, seeks to enjoin the NMCG from acting as an unauthorized police or paramilitary force after members of the group appeared at protests and demonstrations in New Mexico throughout the summer of 2020, wearing camouflage attire and sporting assault rifles and other military-style gear with the professed purpose of “protecting” individuals and property. At one such incident, an individual apparently unaffiliated with NMCG but emboldened by the group’s menacing presence at a protest battered several female protesters before he ultimately shot and injured another protester.

NMCG catalogued much of its unlawful conduct on Facebook pages that the group created and on several of its members’ Facebook pages. Among other things, NMCG and its members used the Facebook app to recruit new members; to issue orders to members and recruits about how to equip and outfit themselves; to provide instructional information on paramilitary tactics; and to encourage members to deploy to protests and demonstrations for the purpose of engaging in paramilitary activity and falsely assuming law-enforcement duties.

View the petition here

[1] Facebook Dangerous Individuals and Organizations List, The Intercept 53 (n.d.), https://theintercept.com/document/2021/10/12/facebook-dangerous-individuals-and-organizations-list-reproduced-snapshot/

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