The FBI is meant to investigate potential federal crimes by using a number of different methods. Over the past few decades, more and more of the administration’s manpower has been dedicated to online crimes. Social media investigations have become more prevalent as people do and say things that may be illegal.
In the past, the FBI has issued subpoenas to Facebook, Inc., to be given the account data for specific users. This company owns Instagram and Facebook. The company has complied with the investigations in the past. Right now, the company’s policy is to let the individual know that their account information has been given to the FBI after the deed is done.
Essentially, you might not find out that your account information has been subpoenaed until after the FBI already has it. The reasons that the FBI may have wanted the information can vary. There are no guarantees that there is incriminating information on your profile. But you may not even be aware that some of what you’ve posted is illegal. For this reason, it’s essential that you contact a lawyer as soon as you find out your account has been the subject of a federal subpoena.
How Instagram and Facebook Cooperate with the FBI
Both Instagram and Facebook have created policies about their investigation with federal law enforcement investigations. They both state that the parent company will comply with appropriate requests made by law enforcement. Instagram and Facebook data can be given to the FBI in three cases: if there is a subpoena, if there is a search warrant, or if there is a court order.
When given one of these three orders, the company will check that it’s valid. Upon confirming this, they will comply with the investigation and disclose whatever account information is requested. It’s important to note that if the FBI has gotten to the point that they’ve subpoenaed a social media account, they likely have information from other places as well.
What Federal Offenses Are Investigated Through Social Media Profiles?
It’s technically possible for any criminal activity to be investigated by subpoenaing the account data of a social media user. However, the FBI uses this method of investigation for some crimes more than others.
State police agencies often go through Instagram and Facebook posts to look for information about marijuana, DUI, theft, and petty crimes. But the FBI investigates very severe federal offenses. Usually, if the FBI is expending manpower on an investigation, that’s because the offense is serious enough to warrant it.
The potential offenses may have significant financial penalties. They may also come with multiple-year prison sentences. If you’re a professional with a license, being charged alone can sometimes be enough to make you lose your licensure.
The FBI often investigates national security threats through social media. Federal law enforcement is very concerned with national security. Many different transactions and activities are considered to be national security threats. If the FBI believes that a person presents a risk to the nation’s security, they may issue a subpoena.
Another top priority of the FBI is to combat potential terrorist threats. Terrorist organizations can organize attacks and recruit members using social media channels. Instagram and Facebook subpoenas are often used in cases where the FBI suspects there is a terror threat.
The FBI investigates drug trafficking and human trafficking rings. Human trafficking is often done through social media, sometimes right under the noses of the people watching. The FBI uses social media account information and IP addresses to locate people who may be engaged in illegal trafficking rings.
The last most common reason for investigation is child pornography. Creating, distributing, or viewing child pornography is a major crime. The FBI often follows the social media activity of people suspected of committing child pornography crimes. By obtaining a search warrant, the FBI can find out whether you’ve shared pornography on a private account.