Norfolk, Nebraska: When Forbes reported on Tuesday, August 9 that private communications on the network were being used to prosecute a then 17-year-old girl for allegedly having an abortion, the hashtag “delete Facebook” became popular.
According to the story, after authorities used a search warrant to access a teenager’s Facebook chats, they charged them with breaking the law by allegedly terminating a pregnancy.
In Madison County Circuit Court, 17-year-old Celeste Burgess and her mother Jessica Burgess are being tried as adults on suspicion of violating a state law banning abortions beyond 20 weeks. In a state that bans abortion, this is one of the first cases in which someone’s Facebook behavior has been used for law enforcement.
After the Norfolk Police Department learned that Celeste had miscarried in April at 23 weeks and secretly buried the fetus with the help of her mother, Celeste and her mother were charged in July, according to the Lincoln Journal Star, with “allegedly removing, concealing or a.” leaving behind a dead human body and concealing the death of another person.” Both the mother and daughter have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Following the publication of the story, Metas spokesperson Andy Stone released a statement on Twitter, in which he claimed that “abortion was not included in any of the legitimate search warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.” According to court documents, authorities at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn child who was cremated and buried, not choosing an abortion, and the warrants were counts of a criminal investigation.
One user wrote: “And just when I thought Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook couldn’t go any deeper, they gave the Nebraska Police Department a teenager’s information and DMs just so they could prosecute her for an abortion!” If they haven’t already, rational women should stop using Facebook!
Under pressure from employees, Google has said it will remove the location information of users who used the platform to track down abortion services, shortly after the #DeleteFacebook hashtag went viral.