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30 Nov, 2023 16:06

X ordered to turn over info on users who interacted with Trump

The US Justice Department issued a search warrant after media organizations sued over a lack of transparency
X ordered to turn over info on users who interacted with Trump

The special counsel prosecuting Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, has ordered X (formerly Twitter) to turn over account information on any users who interacted with the former president, according to a heavily redacted search warrant released by the US Department of Justice on Monday.  

The warrant requests “all information from the ‘Connect’ or ‘Notifications’ tab for [Trump’s] account, including all lists of Twitter users who have favorited or retweeted tweets posted by the account, as well as all tweets that include the username associated with the account (i.e. ‘mentions’ or ‘replies’).” This is in addition to Trump’s own search history, direct messages, a list of every user he “followed, unfollowed, muted, unmuted, blocked, or unblocked,” and “content of all tweets created, drafted, favorited/liked, or retweeted” by the then-president from October 2020 to January 2021.  

Even advertising information, topic preferences, communications with X’s support staff, and data that was deleted but remains available to the platform must be turned over to the prosecutor, according to the document.  

There is no benign or reasonable justification for that demand,” FBI whistleblower Steve Friend opined in a post on X on Tuesday. Many Trump supporters took to X to express their disdain for the order, denouncing Smith as an “enemy of the people” and calling on Congress to defund his investigation.  

The Justice Department released the warrant and several other filings in response to a Freedom of Information request from media organizations objecting to the secrecy of the investigation. The existence of the warrant only became public in August with Trump’s indictment, even though special counsel Jack Smith had ordered X to turn over the information in January. The warrant included an order forbidding the company from informing Trump about the search. 

While X initially refused to comply due to the gag order, arguing it was a violation of the First Amendment, Smith countered that informing the ex-president would result in “statutorily cognizable harm,” resulting in “destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, or other serious jeopardy to an investigation or delaying of trial.” The platform ultimately agreed to release the data, but missed a court deadline, resulting in a $350,000 fine for contempt of court.  

Trump was indicted in August on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing a congressional proceeding and conspiracy against rights related to his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. While the election-interference case is just one of many felony indictments filed against the Republican this year, he has recently inched ahead of incumbent Joe Biden in polls of likely 2024 voters.

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