Attorneys from the Justice Department have disclosed documents related to their search warrant for Donald Trump’s Twitter account, revealing an extensive collection of data concerning the former President’s social media activity. This includes information on every account that liked, followed, or retweeted him. The heavily redacted search warrant, unveiled following a November 17 judge’s ruling, resulted from media organizations’ application in August for the warrant and associated data to be made public.
Twitter, seemingly under compulsion, provided the DOJ with substantial amounts of data. Special Counsel Jack Smith sought and apparently obtained details on all users Trump interacted with on Twitter, encompassing those he followed, unfollowed, muted, unmuted, blocked, or unblocked. Additionally, the warrant demanded information on users who interacted similarly with Trump, including those who followed, unfollowed, muted, unmuted, blocked, or unblocked him.
Furthermore, the DOJ sought data on all lists of Twitter users who favorited or retweeted Trump’s tweets, along with all tweets that mentioned or replied to his username. The warrant extended to Trump’s geolocation, private messages, search history, contact information, and, remarkably, his pronouns, as reported in August.
The release of the warrant followed Twitter’s objection to the search warrant and an accompanying gag order, arguing that the gag order violated the company’s First Amendment right to communicate with Trump. Twitter’s opposition was unsuccessful, and the company was fined $350,000 in February for failing to comply with the order. All decisions by Obama-appointed District Judge Beryl Howell were upheld by an appeals court.
The Justice Department’s pursuit of such extensive information raises concerns about privacy and the potential politicization of law enforcement. The appeals court, in its decision unsealed in August, affirmed the district court’s rulings, stating that the nondisclosure order was justified to prevent jeopardizing the ongoing investigation.
This situation highlights the contentious relationship between technology companies, legal processes, and the protection of individual privacy. The scope of the information sought in the warrant underscores the broader challenges in balancing law enforcement needs with privacy rights in the digital age.