Opinion

FBI Agents Interrogate Americans Over Social Media Posts

Picture yourself on Good Friday.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Christians commemorated the crucifixion of Lord Jesus Christ on this day.

Good Friday is not a federal holiday and so many people would have been working regular hours.

Still, America’s founding is steeped in Christian traditions, and thus, the stock market observes Good Friday as a holiday and school closures take place depending on school districts.

Many Americans, regardless of their faith, had good reason to visit family, friends—or just spend more time on themselves.

For one woman from the state of Louisiana, who goes by the display name “Kam St.Martin” on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), her post seemed to strike a deep, uncomfortable chord with several users about surveillance in the United States:

🚩The FBI came to my house over a TWEET!
Not cool.
My pinned tweet that’s still up.
@elonmusk

“The FBI came to my house over a TWEET! ‘Not cool,’” Martin wrote, tagging X owner Elon Musk.

According to Martin, the concerning “tweet” that seemingly compelled a visit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was posted on February 20, pinned to her profile, and shows the image of a man whom Martin identifies as having drugged and murdered her cousin.

When questioned about the purpose of their visit, the FBI agent responded, “Uhm, it’s about the Baton Rouge subject.”

The agent’s reference to the “Baton Rouge subject” likely relates to Martin’s viral February post, which has since garnered over 9.8 million views. In the post, she reveals that the man who murdered her cousin that month was allowed to walk free:

🚨This monster drugged my 27 yr old cousin at the L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge last February. He dumped her half naked dead body like trash.
Rap sheet a mile long. He walks today on PROBATION .Damion Matthews may you reap what you have sown. @govjefflandryy

“This monster drugged my 27 yr old cousin at the L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge last February,” the tweet reads, “He dumped her half naked dead body like trash.”

“Rap sheet a mile long,” Martin’s post continues. “He walks today on PROBATION. Damion Matthews may you reap what you have sown.”

Indeed, 38-year-old Matthews was arrested on February 23 last year after authorities discovered the body of a woman at an empty apartment under construction, according to a local Louisiana news outlet. Surveillance footage showed Matthews with the victim at the L’Auberge Casino and his vehicle near the apartment where her body was found. Nonetheless, Matthew was released on probation this year.

During the visit from the FBI, it is alleged that the agent claimed the law enforcement agency had received a death threat posed against a judge. Yet Martin remained unconvinced and elaborated about the potential motivation behind the visit:

“He said a threat came into the FBI on judges lives. You can see I never mentioned a judge. 8.3 million views and thousands of comments. I honestly don’t believe his story. I think the [district attorney] DA in Baton Rouge got butthurt.”

She went on to add in a subsequent reply:

“We had a conversation. I asked why the scrutiny was on me. I received lots of threats for my tweet. He [the FBI agent] left me alone after that.”

The FBI’s monitoring of social media posts has sparked outrage among many users, who argue that the federal agency is exceeding its authority and infringing on citizens’ freedom of speech. Such an incident is reminiscent of another recent event involving an individual who was questioned by FBI agents about their social media posts, igniting a conversation about the perils of politically motivated entrapment by law enforcement agencies.

According to a report by Fox News in late March, Rolla Abdeljawad from the state of Oklahoma received an unexpected visit from FBI agents, with concerns about her social media activity on Facebook.

Abdeljawad, who aimed to establish the agents’ identity by asking them to display their badges on camera, shared her experience through a video uploaded on X by her lawyer.

“Facebook gave us a couple of screenshots of your account,” one of at least three visiting agents said in the video.

To this end, Abdeljawad replied, “So we no longer live in a free country, and we can’t say what we want?”

“No, we totally do; that’s why we’re not here to arrest you or anything like that,” the agent responded.

(Oh, shocking, right?)

“We do this every day, all day long,” he continued. “It’s just an effort to keep everybody safe and make sure nobody has any ill will.”

What “ill will” might the agent have been referring to in the context of visiting an American after social media giant Facebook, arguably a digital country in capacity, shared “a couple of screenshots” of Abdeljawad’s account with a government law enforcement agency?

The woman is heard responding with, “All I’ve done is exercise my right as an American citizen on a public social media platform with my personal opinions.”

Perhaps Abdeljawad’s vehement and harsh criticism about the ongoing conflict within the Gaza Strip on Facebook might have triggered the eventual knock at the door?

For example, one post labels Israel as “Israhell,” reported by Fox News.

“Israhelli terrorist filth,” the post reads. “They think Ramadan is a weakness for Muslims not realizing Ramadan is the strength. #FreePalestine May Allah destroy every single despicable zionist, their supporters and backers. Ameen.”

Meta Platforms, Inc., Facebook’s parent company, is legally required to share user information with law enforcement officials who submit a “request” concerning a matter that, to their judgement, involves “imminent harm to a child or risk of death or serious physical injury to any person and requiring disclosure of information without delay.”

In essence, Meta has a policy to provide law enforcement officials Facebook user “account records” following a valid subpoena, court order or search warrant under the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. Sections 2701-2712.

Still, Abdeljawad’s Facebook profile was reportedly public, so the FBI could have technically viewed and obtained her posts without requesting screenshots from the social media giant.

“[I]t seems like a fishing expedition,” she expressed in a new post following the FBI’s visit. “I do not fear them. My only concern as, I told the cop is that, someone in my state will do something or that they would and then use my posts in a malicious attempt to ‘smear’ me. Just *remember, I am a Muslim, an obligated protector of creation. I enjoin what is good and forbid what is wrong.”

Abdeljawad’s lawyer pointed out on X that she made the correct decision to refuse to speak without a lawyer, not permit them in her house and record the interaction. At the same time, he stated she has “the right never to speak to the FBI without a lawyer.”

In the first half of 2023, Facebook received a staggering 73,956 user data requests from federal agencies and courts in the United States. Remarkably, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the company complied with 88 percent of these requests from U.S. federal authorities.

Furthermore, virtual private network (VPN) service provider AtlasVPN reported that Meta received over 400,000 user data requests from law enforcement in 2022, seeking details on more than 800,000 users. In 75 percent of cases, Meta disclosed at least some information, marking a 971 percent increase in government requests since 2013.

Such developments highlight the delicate balance between privacy, security, and data access in the digital age. Indeed, this substantial volume of data requests underscores the growing intersection between private multinational technology conglomerates hosting digital platforms and government-based law enforcement authorities.

Yet, if Facebook believes it’s leading the way for a cozy partnership with federal law enforcement, it may want to look over the horizon where its younger counterpart has been quietly twittering—at least over the last four years.

Since 2020, news media outlets with politically libertarian through conservative dispositions have reported with supportive primary sources that social media platform X, when it went by Twitter, was conferring and conspiring with the FBI leadership, as well as the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), to suppress users’ political speech based on its content by banning, suspending, or limiting their digital reach across the platform.

It is unclear if X has altered the process by which the NASED and FBI can access or suppress posts of concern, and their corresponding user accounts. After all, let us not forget its former CEO and current owner’s tweet after purchasing one of the world’s largest social networks, with over 500 million users, in 2022:

“New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.

Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.

You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.”

Freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach?

So, we might as well be tweeting away in a digital locked cage, removed and isolated from other X users and the “rest of Internet” as Musk states, right?

And during that period of expressing ourselves, for all we know, we are posting only to ourselves—and someone working for government surveillance.

It was only a matter of time.

It’s not coming; it’s already here.

Content syndicated from Dear Rest of America with permission

Dear Rest Of America

Dear Rest Of America is a newsletter written by Cameron Keegan, who independently researches and writes about American politics, faith and culture affecting young people through a conservative disposition. To learn more, visit Dear Rest Of America and for questions, send an email to ckeeganan@substack.com

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