Ian Patrick, FISM News
Facebook parent company Meta has now become a focal point in Big Tech’s role within the abortion debate, as the company faces backlash for its role in an abortion-related case in Nebraska.
WARNING – the following account contains graphic details involving an unborn fetus, including severe mistreatment and death. Viewer discretion is advised.
As reported in the Lincoln Journal Star, mother Jessica Burgess and daughter Celeste Burgess have been charged for allegedly aborting, burning, and burying a fetus earlier this year.
In April, Norfolk police launched an investigation after receiving a tip that Celeste, age 17, had miscarried a baby and buried it with help from her mother. Medical records showed that the baby was about six months along at the time of the alleged act and indicated that it would be delivered around July 3.
The mother and daughter claimed that an early stillborn birth had occurred, and that the two drove out of town and buried the body with the help of a third man. Upon examination of the now-deceased fetus, both the detective and other authorities determined that there were burn-related wounds found on the body.
By June, the mother and daughter were charged with the felony of removing, concealing, or abandoning a dead human body. They were also charged with the misdemeanors of concealing the death of another person and false reporting.
The investigation continued as the detective served a search warrant to Facebook to access the mother’s and daughter’s accounts.
It was from this search warrant that the detective found messages between the two that appeared to show them planning to acquire abortion pills. The detective described the messages, writing that Celeste allegedly said “how she can’t wait to get the ‘thing’ out of her body” and corroborated with her mother to “burn the evidence afterward.”
Upon examination of this new evidence, two more felony charges were filed against Jessica: one for performing or attempting an abortion on a pregnancy at more than 20 weeks, and one for performing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor. Jessica and Celeste have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The third man, age 22, has also been accused of helping to bury the fetus. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and will be charged at a later date.
Meta’s involvement in the case has sparked controversy, as many are convinced that it amounts to a violation of privacy. Forbes writers Emily Baker-White and Sarah Emerson note that this is “one of the first instances of a person’s Facebook activity being used to incriminate her in a state where abortion access is restricted.”
As of right now, Nebraska outlaws abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization unless the child’s viability is threatened by the pregnancy’s continuation.
The topic has circulated on Twitter, with many users calling for the deletion of Facebook altogether. New York Attorney General Letitia James even commented on the matter, saying she wants to push “tech companies to protect sensitive and private data.”
In response to the controversy, Meta released a statement titled “Correcting the Record on Meta’s Involvement in Nebraska Case.” Calling the reporting on the situation “plain wrong,” the company says it wants “to set the record straight.”
We received valid legal warrants from local law enforcement on June 7, before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The warrants did not mention abortion at all. Court documents indicate that police were at that time investigating the alleged illegal burning and burial of a stillborn infant. The warrants were accompanied by non-disclosure orders, which prevented us from sharing information about them. The orders have now been lifted.
WIRED reported that, following the statement regarding the Nebraska case, Meta also announced that it is testing end-to-end encryption technology features on its Facebook Messenger app. They describe this feature as a privacy tool that won’t give Meta access to messages “unless you choose to report them to us.”
WIRED says that Meta claimed this move is unrelated to the current case.