Bellingham Activist Group Continues Fight to Protect Privacy / Press Release, Red Line Salish Sea

red line salish sea press release seattle hearing

November 16, 2017  Red Line Salish Sea

Contact: Maru Mora Villalpando 206-251-6658
November 16th, 2017
Bellingham Activist Group Continues Fight to Protect Privacy; Invites Courtroom Attendance to Appeal Hearing
Facebook challenges Bellingham warrant to submit private data while in appeal
Bellingham, WA

On Tuesday, November 4th, 2017, the Whatcom County Court’s respect for freedom of speech and association was called into question once again. Approximately forty supporters of the Indigenous led group the Red Line Salish Sea formerly the Bellingham #NoDAPL Coalition filled the courtroom to demand fair justice.

 The Whatcom County Prosecutor brought a motion to hold the social networking website Facebook in contempt of court and proposed sanctions of $100,000 per day for not turning over personal and political data of over 1700 people on the Bellingham #NoDAPL Coalition (now Red Line Salish Sea) Facebook page

An attorney for Facebook argued that constitutionally protected free speech and association of its users trumps any governmental interest in surveilling political activists. Further, the attorney stated Facebook would not turn over information while there was an appeal in process. Collecting electronic data for possible prosecution of activists and organizers is likely to chill dissent and prevent others from engaging in social discourse out of fear of persecution by legal authorities.

Whatcom Superior Court Judge Snyder ruled that Facebook was in contempt of court and sanctioned the social networking website $2000 per day until they hand over data related to visits to the Bellingham #NoDAPL Coalition (now Red Line Salish Sea) page to the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office.

The Whatcom County Prosecutor’s office attempted two prior warrants on the Facebook page without success. The current third warrant signed by Judge Snyder continues to give sweeping authority to law enforcement to collect data from Facebook of 1,700 subscribers of the Bellingham #NoDAPL (now Red Line Salish Sea) Facebook page.

However, the warrant has not yet been fulfilled because it is now pending a discretionary hearing in the higher-level Washington Court of Appeals. The discretionary appeals hearing will decide if the administrators to the page have standing to bring an appeal, and if there can be a stay to the warrant. If the appellate court finds the group administrators do not have right to bring an appeal, Facebook will be sanctioned $2,000 per day for each day they refuse to hand over data on political activists and organizing work being done in solidarity with anti-pipeline struggles across the country.

Supporters and the media are expected to attend the Bellingham #NoDAPL (Now Red Line Salish Sea) Facebook warrant appeal hearing Friday, November 17th, at 9:30am, at the Washington Court of Appeals, One Union Square (first floor), 600 University Street, Seattle.

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