Justin Carter Update: Facebook Unable to Provide Original Argument Thread
In February of this year, Texas teen Justin Carter was arrested and charged with making a “terroristic threat” in a gaming-related Facebook argument. The charge, his jailing and (finally, after months) his eventual $500,000 bond posting by an anonymous donor have sparked questions about free speech on the internet–particularly, as it intersects with law enforcement’s need to prevent domestic terror.
Carter’s pre-trial hearing was just held on Monday September 23, the focus of which was to attend to specific discovery requests previously filed by Carter’s defense.
Among them was a request to have the entire Facebook thread in question handed over to the defense. Part of the thread (pictured below) was captured via cell phone screenshot, but the entire thread has since been deleted. When asked by the state to produce a copy of the entire thread, Facebook reportedly declined. Carter’s attorney Don Flanary spoke with Game Front today, and explained the situation:
“We don’t have the whole thread. Whoever was the initial owner or generator of the thread took it down. Facebook told the government that they don’t have a copy of it, because it was deleted and taken down.
That sounds interesting, regarding all that we’ve heard in the last two months about what the government is able to do regarding preserving people’s Facebooks and all the information. I find it a little bit strange that Facebook says it’s lost and gone forever. I didn’t think anything was lost and gone forever.”
The entirety of the thread would benefit the defense, as it reportedly contains context that further shades Carter’s comments as a flippant joke (not a serious threat), and also displays a group argument with further context. “There’s context in what we see in what we have,” Flanary noted. “But there would be more context if we saw the entire thread. We have everything to gain by seeing the context.”
As far as users are concerned, Facebook does not appear to offer any option for recovering deleted wall posts.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment, and to request clarification on their policy regarding law enforcement requests for deleted threads. More information as we have it.