Posts Tagged ‘subpoena’

Twitter Challenges Another Subpoena Directed at Occupy Activist

Ethan Wall | May 17, 2012 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

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Twitter is resisting an attempt by prosecutors to gain access to the message history of a writer and activist who was arrested during Occupy Wall Street protests last fall, Boston.com reports

The micro-blogging service filed court papers Monday asking a judge to quash a subpoena in which the Manhattan district attorney had ordered it to produce months-worth of old tweets, now deleted, that had been posted by Malcolm Harris, who was among 700 people arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge during a march on Oct. 1.

Prosecutors argued that these tweets might show whether Harris was aware that police had ordered demonstrators not to march across the bridge.  Harris unsuccessfully tried to fight the subpoena on his own. A New York judge ruled that Harris lacked standing to fight the subpoena because he did own the tweets, Twitter did.

Judge Matthew Sciarrino wrote in his April decision that once Harris posted his messages they became the property of Twitter and that any constitutional protection he had over their disclosure disappeared:

“While the Fourth Amendment provides protection for our physical homes, we do not have a physical ‘home’ on the Internet,” Sciarrino wrote. He also reasoned that Twitter was free to redistribute its customers’ tweets “to anyone, any way and for any reason it chooses.”

Twitter contends the judge misunderstood how its service works, claiming that Twitter users do not relinquish ownership of their messages or photos by posting them on the service. Twitter also argued that the federal Stored Communications Act provides Twitter users with standing to challenge demands for their account records. A decision will be forthcoming.

This is not the first time prosecutors have sought Twitter account information from “occupy” activities.  In January, a Massachusetts prosecutor subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Boston activist, as well as records linked to two certain “hashtags” (#BostonPD).  A CNN correspondent interviewed me to comment on the subpoena – and published the following:

Subpoenaing Twitter records is becoming more common, according to lawyer Ethan Wall, of the Richman Greer law firm in Miami. Wall, who specializes in intellectual property litigation, said the practice could have “a chilling effect on free speech.”

“We are in this information-accessible age where we can post anything and everything from anywhere on any device,” Wall said. “Because it’s so easy I don’t think that people put the thought into how this might affect them personally, professionally or legally.”

This is just one example of how the line between privacy and accessibility is blurring in the age of Internet communication. Stay tuned, as I will survey this issue on the blog over the coming weeks. 


Twitter Ordered to Hand Over WikiLeaks Supporters’ Account Information

Ethan Wall | January 13, 2012 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (3)

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Twitter has to provide the U.S. Department of Justice with all account information for three users who allegedly support WikiLeaks, a federal judge ordered last Wednesday according to Mashable.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady denied a motion to suspend previous orders that would allow the DOJ access to the Twitter account information of three people who are suspected of having ties to WikiLeaks.

The account information for Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher, Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s Parliament and Dutch activist Rop Gonggrijp will be used in the investigation into WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange.

The information the Department of Justice requested is extensive, reportedly including all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the ‘means and source of payment,’ including banking records and credit cards.” The DOJ wants all the above information beginning with Nov. 1, 2009 to the present date, according to the report.

In December 2010, a magistrate judge granted the Department of Justice permission to seek the three account holders’ Twitter information under a secret order. Twitter’s “Guidelines for Law Enforcement” says it will notify users of subpoenas for information if law enforcement does not submit a statute or court order to keep the information request secret. The request for Twitter account information was kept secret until early 2011, when the Department of Justice allowed its request to go public.

This is the second recent decision enforcing a subpoena seeking to access Twitter account holder information. In early January, a Suffolk County court overruled objections to a Massachusetts prosecutor’s subpoena directed at the Twitter records of an Occupy Boston activist, as well as records linked to two Twitter hashtags.  While certain activits believe these subpoenas violate internet users privacy rights and freedom of speech, it is becoming apparent that more courts are allowing access to personal information collected by Twitter.


Judge Refuses to Quash Subpoena of Twitter Accounts Linked to Occupy Boston

Ethan Wall | January 3, 2012 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (1)

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A decision by Massachusetts prosecutors to subpoena the Twitter records of an Occupy Boston activist, as well as records linked to two Twitter hashtags, has free speech advocates up in arms, calling the move a violation of the First Amendment CNN reports.

Suffolk County prosecutors demanded that Twitter hand over information posted on the social media website by user “Guido Fawkes,” whose Twitter handle is @p0isAn0N, as well as information from the user behind @OccupyBoston and those who Tweeted #BostonPD or #d0xcak3, according to the document.

In the subpoena, which was issued on Dec. 14, prosecutors requested that Twitter release to them “all available subscriber information,” including IP address logs for the time period between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13 as part of an “official criminal investigation.”

Those dates coincide with clashes between protesters and police in Boston’s Dewey Square. Dozens of protesters were arrested after refusing to leave the public space after being ordered to do so by Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino.

Subpoenaing Twitter records is becoming more common, according to lawyer Ethan Wall, of the Richman Greer law firm in Miami. Wall, who specializes in intellectual property litigation, said the practice could have “a chilling effect on free speech.”

“We are in this information-accessible age where we can post anything and everything from anywhere on any device,” Wall said. “Because it’s so easy I don’t think that people put the thought into how this might affect them personally, professionally or legally.”

A Suffolk County Superior judge held a private hearing Thursday and impounded all documents pertaining to the case. Following a sidebar with counsel, the judge overruled the objections to the subpoena.

A CNN correspondent contacted me over the holidays to comment on the subpoena prior to the court issuing its ruling.  This is not the first time Twitter records have been subpoenaed in high profile cases. In March 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice served a subpoena seeking the identity of the founders and supports of WikiLeaks.  As more people flock to Twitter to comment on their personal, professional, and political lives – I foresee more subpoenas directed at this type of information in the future.