“Delete Facebook” started trending on Tuesday, August 9, after Forbes reported that private messages on the platform were used to prosecute a then-17-year-old girl for allegedly having an abortion.
According to Forbes, the teenager, who is being tried as an adult, and her 41-year-old mother were charged in July with “allegedly removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead human body,” which is a felony, as well as two misdemeanours: concealing the death of another person and false accusation. The mother was subsequently charged additionally with “performing or attempting an abortion in a pregnancy of more than 20 weeks and performing an abortion as an unlicensed physician.”
Celeste Burgess, 17, is being tried as an adult along with her mother Jessica Burgess in Madison County District Court on charges they violated a Nebraska law that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. This is one of the first cases where a person’s Facebook activity has been used to charge them in a state where abortion is illegal.
Police allege that the 18-year-old had self-managed her abortion after telling police she had miscarried at 28 weeks, and the evidence was turned over to police thanks to Facebook’s parent company Meta receiving a search warrant. The couple’s entire message history, search history and details were turned over to the police, showing that they had planned to terminate her pregnancy and delete the evidence.
In Nebraska, it is illegal to have an abortion after 20 weeks unless life-threatening to the giving birth parent, and the state did not have a trigger law to ban all abortions after the controversial Roe case was overturned. v. Wade. Police had been informed, according to Motherboard, in late April that the 17-year-old had miscarried before launching an investigation.
A user wrote, “And just when I thought Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook couldn’t go any lower, they gave the Nebraska Police a teen’s information and DMs just so they can prosecute her for getting an abortion! Sane woman should leave Facebook if they haven’t already done so! #DeleteFacebook”.
Another user wrote, “Ladies, DO NOT POST PERSONAL INFORMATION ON ANY SOCIAL MEDIA. DO NOT USE APPS TO TRACK YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE OR ANYTHING ELSE PERSONAL. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO HAS ACCESS TO THE INFORMATION. THOSE APP COMPANIES SELL YOUR DATA. FREE APPS ARE NOT FREE!! #DeleteFacebook”. While one user wrote, “So @Meta will go full force against a teenage girl, but can’t shut down Russian bots, insurrectionists, or white supremacists? #META #DeleteFacebook”.
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