Facebook Crossed A Line Sharing DM Of Teen Who Faces Felony Rap Over Use Of Abortion Pill

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The massive social media platform Facebook is in the news this week, and I’m outta there. After being lured to Facebook in its infancy by one of my children who insisted I’d love it (he left the platform years ago) I’ve watched it emerge as the most effective spying tool ever. 

Most people who still use it put public stuff on their timeline and private stuff in direct messages (DM).

So when a 17 year old in Nebraska needed an abortion she and her mother both used their DM to share information about that. Then someone snitched and police demanded the messages of both the formerly pregnant person and her mom. After Facebook turned over evidence that, yes, a teen terminated an unwanted pregnancy using pills, the girl was arrested, charged with murder (a felony), disposing of a dead body, and will be tried as an adult. Mom is facing felony charges, too, for supporting her child’s need for health care unobtainable in Nebraska.

“Facebook previously said it would ban users who posted that they would mail abortion pills to people in states where it is banned or restricted,” according to “The Is The Data Facebook Gave Police To Prosecute A Teen For Abortion” where Vice published the actual court documents).

This tweet went viral:

Today I joined many in deleting my accounts on Spybook and Instagram.

And I actually felt relief but not much regret after doing so

Facebook is owned by a company now known as Meta. It also owns Insta and presumably would also turn over your DM from Insta to the police if asked. Facebook’s defense was that the court order didn’t mention abortion, just a criminal investigation into a stillbirth. Uh huh. (I know pr flaks for Meta aren’t stupid, but apparently they think we are.)

Anything I ever put on those platforms is fair game — something I was always fully aware of and behaved accordingly.  Did you know many low-income people use Facebook Messenger instead of texting which incurs charges on most phone plans?

But here’s the thing: that time I needed an abortion, I had access to a safe, legal, medical procedure as part of my HMO health plan. I didn’t need to go searching for solutions I hoped would not be desperate enough to risk my life, my health, or my liberty. 

And I didn’t have to worry about snitches.

Do you work at a tech company? Do you have information on how they are handling data with regards to abortion rights? We’d love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

Do you work at Facebook? Do you know of any other cases where Facebook or another tech company has provided information about an abortion to law enforcement? Reach out to jason.koebler@vice.com or securely on Signal: 202-505-1702

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