Twitter ordered to identify protester, argues users own their data

By on September 12, 2012, 1:00 PM

A New York State Supreme Court judge ordered Twitter to hand over the account information of Occupy Wall Street protester Malcolm Harris, Bloomberg reports. Twitter has until September 15 to comply with the court order to face an undisclosed fine proportionate to its last two quarterly earnings statements.

Since the ruling was originally made on June 30, Twitter has already had more than two months to comply with the state court's subpoena. Twitter appealed the decision and requested to have punitive action delayed until its appeal can be processed; however, that request was denied last week. Harris' lawyer called the quashing of Twitter's appeal "outrageous".

Given the massive scale and real-time nature of Twitter, the company insists that its users own their own data. At the very least, that much is spelled out in its terms of service agreement. As such, Twitter contends the onus of legal compliance and privacy rights fall squarely upon its users: not the company.

Unfortunately for Twitter, their reasoning doesn't jibe with the judge. The court ruling indicates that Twitter is responsible for producing tweets, not its users. However, it is unclear how this point is relevant since the court admits the tweets in question have already been publicly disseminated.

In practical terms, it appears the court hopes to link about 3.5 months' worth of tweets from @destructuremal to Harris. Although the account claims to be "Malcolm Harris", Twitter's help is necessary in order to identify the true account owner. Of course, the account holder's information is not made publicly available and therein lies the crux.




User Comments: 9

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Guest said:

I'm not familiar with the issue, why exactly do they want his account info again? To later prosecute him for his twitter comments or am I missing something here? If so, since when can you get prosecuted for saying something (doesn't matter what actually), on the internet no less, what happened to the freedom of speech and all that garbage... Or does it only apply when its convenient... Did he disclose some national secret or something?

1 person liked this | Tygerstrike said:

@Guest

A bit of information. Freedom of Speech has a few loopholes in it. Yes you have the right to say whatever you want. But there are consiquences to doing so. FoS doesnt give you the right to yell "Fire" if none exists. FoS gives you the right to talk smack about the president, but the Secret Service will want to have a talk with you. FoS doesnt give you the right to incite a riot.

Basically FoS in general gives the individual the RIGHT to say what they will. But as with any right there is always a slightly darker side to it.

As for this story perhaps the author will point us to the seed story so we can all catch up lol.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

So exactly what did Malcolm Harris do to warrant a Supreme Court ordered subpoena?

bexwhitt said:

At least the USA has mostly free speech in the UK under section 5 of the public order act you could get attested for calling someones horse ugly, I kid you not

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

"The Manhattan district attorney's office is seeking the information to combat Harris' defense that police led the march onto the roadway before turning around and arresting people for disorderly conduct and impeding vehicular traffic. Lawyers for others among the hundreds arrested October 30 on the bridge have echoed that statement."

[link]

Guardian_31756 Guardian_31756 said:

@Guest

A bit of information. Freedom of Speech has a few loopholes in it. Yes you have the right to say whatever you want. But there are consiquences to doing so. FoS doesnt give you the right to yell "Fire" if none exists. FoS gives you the right to talk smack about the president, but the Secret Service will want to have a talk with you. FoS doesnt give you the right to incite a riot.

Basically FoS in general gives the individual the RIGHT to say what they will. But as with any right there is always a slightly darker side to it.

As for this story perhaps the author will point us to the seed story so we can all catch up lol.

Well, let's not forget that Freedom of Speech also has very drastic effects overseas, like Libya !

Guardian_31756 Guardian_31756 said:

I'm not familiar with the issue, why exactly do they want his account info again? To later prosecute him for his twitter comments or am I missing something here? If so, since when can you get prosecuted for saying something (doesn't matter what actually), on the internet no less, what happened to the freedom of speech and all that garbage... Or does it only apply when its convenient... Did he disclose some national secret or something?

Are you forgetting what's going on in Libya with the Embassy incident ?

Docnoq said:

The guy is not being arrested for what he said or tweeted. The court wants access to the tweets as evidence that Harris knew about the police warnings beforehand since he claims he did not. Ie, they want to see if Harris lied and was hopefully stupid enough to tweet about it.

TJGeezer said:

At least the USA has mostly free speech in the UK under section 5 of the public order act you could get attested for calling someones horse ugly, I kid you not

Come on, be fair. That would have to be very upsetting to the horse.

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