A legal showdown highlights a tension between social media companies’ content moderation efforts and real-world prosecutions
On Monday, the district attorney of Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located, took the unusual step of asking a court in Facebook’s home state of California to force the company to comply with its subpoena for basic account information related to the New Mexico Civil Guard group and its members. The move comes after talks between District Attorney Raul Torrez’s team and Facebook hit a stalemate, with Facebook insisting it doesn’t have the records but declining to offer a sworn affidavit that it is incapable of retrieving them.
The New Mexico Civil Guard organized, recruited, taught paramilitary tactics and guided members’ actions via Facebook, Torrez said at a news conference Monday. If Facebook really deletes all traces of such groups when it takes down their pages and accounts, that calls into question how serious Facebook is about preventing them from resurfacing on the platform, let alone aiding real-world investigations into such groups, he added.
Albuquerque police detain members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, an armed civilian group, following the shooting of a man during a protest on June 15, 2020, in Albuquerque. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/AP)
“We find it hard to believe that a trillion-dollar company would be in a position where they would have deleted this information and have no way to retrieve it,” Torrez said.