FACEBOOK WARRANT TARGETING STUDENT JOURNALISTS IN PUERTO RICO PROMPTS FEARS OF POLITICAL SURVEILLANCE

FACEBOOK WARRANT TARGETING STUDENT JOURNALISTS IN PUERTO RICO PROMPTS FEARS OF POLITICAL SURVEILLANCE

Illustration: Cathryn Virginia for The Intercept

 

By Alleen Brown, Alice Speri

January 19 2020, 4:30 a.m.

From the https://theintercept.com

AS SEVEN University of Puerto Rico students prepare to face trial in February for participating in a nonviolent protest more than two years ago, documents released to their defense attorneys reveal that Facebook granted the island’s Justice Department access to a trove of private information from student news publications. The department’s sweeping search warrant was part of a hunt for crimes committed by members of the youth anti-austerity movement, and it has raised fears among civil liberties advocates of a return to a period of Puerto Rico’s history when police routinely targeted citizens for surveillance on the basis of their political interests.

It was April 2017, and for weeks, University of Puerto Rico students had been holding a school-wide strike protesting austerity policies that were poised to defund public services across the island to satisfy the government’s creditors. When the university’s governing board gathered on April 27 to discuss $241 million in budget cuts, the students demanded to be let in. The board refused, locking the doors to the building where the meeting was being held. But the students stormed in anyway, pushing past security.

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