Meta Provided Prosecutors with Private Messages About Abortion in a Case Against a 17-Year-Old

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The Facebook Messenger logo appears on a phone with an unread message bubble.Private messages on Facebook might not be entirely private SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meta provided Nebraska prosecutors with private Facebook messages from a 17-year-old girl, which will be used to prosecute her for having an abortion, Vice reported today (Aug. 9). For the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the Roe v. Wade decision on June 24, a social media platform has complied with law enforcement to release personal data related to abortions. 

The Norfolk Police Department charged the teen with three crimes, one of which is a felony for “removing/concealing/abandoning dead human body.” Her mother is charged with five crimes related to performing or attempting an abortion eight weeks past the state’s 20-week abortion ban. 

In private Facebook messages, the mother and daughter talked about how the pills worked, when to start the medication, and what to do with the stillborn fetus. Those messages now sit at the heart of the prosecution’s case. Though the abortion allegedly took place before the nationwide decision on Roe v. Wade, Meta’s cooperation with law enforcement sets a dangerous precedent for what data the company is willing to give up about its users in the post-Roe world. Meta did not immediately respond to Vice’s request for comment.

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