Twitter hands over Occupy protestor data to avoid hefty fines

By on September 14, 2012, 5:30 PM

Twitter was given until September 15 to either give up tweets belonging to Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris or face stiff financial penalties from a New York State Supreme Court judge. The microblogging service elected to avoid any further legal trouble and hand over the tweets in question after resisting a subpoena for the data until the very last minute.

The judge’s request stems from an incident last October at an Occupy Wall Street protest. Harris insists that police led protestors to the Brooklyn Bridge where they were promptly arrested for obstructing traffic. Prosecutors claim that Harris’ tweets spanning a three month period around that time will suggest otherwise.

The microblogging service said the subpoena violates its terms of service agreement and as a company, they are committed to defending their user’s rights. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sided with Twitter but it wasn’t enough to change the judge’s mind.

If Twitter didn’t comply with Judge Matthew Sciarrino’s request, the company would have had to hand over their last two quarterly financial statements. The judge would then have gauged a suitable fine based on that information.

Twitter attorney Terryl Brown handed over the documents to the judge in a sealed envelope. He further requested that the documents remained sealed in the envelope until a definitive decision on the legality of tweets has been reached.

Harris’ attorney Martin Stolar said his client was disappointed that Twitter essentially gave up on the fight.




User Comments: 9

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Tygerstrike said:

Hmmmm lets see. Im Twitter. Ive been given a judical order to comply with a judges request or face fines based on what I as a company can afford. Its not illegal for the company to hand the info over. It only violates the user agreement. Which Twitter setup. I would be handing that information over. Its not like its a media outlet requesting this info. Its a Judge. Capitol "J" type of judge. That means either hand over the information or face penalties. Guess what, no matter how much you think a company will have your back, you to will be thrown under the bus.

gamoniac said:

If there is overwhelming belief that the tweets support an argument (or disproving a statement in this case), the judge can order a subpoena to acquire them. Tweets and emails are no different than paper letter or other tangible form of media - cassette, video tape included.

Matt12345170 Matt12345170 said:

If there is overwhelming belief that the tweets support an argument (or disproving a statement in this case), the judge can order a subpoena to acquire them. Tweets and emails are no different than paper letter or other tangible form of media - cassette, video tape included.

I'm by far no legal expert, hell, I'm sure that most of us aren't, so take my word with a grain of salt, but I believe twitter was arguing that the user owns their tweets, which if true, means that he would be incriminating himself, therefore it would not be taken into court.

That being said, from that stance, all it means is that twitter was trying to side step it.

MilwaukeeMike said:

If there is overwhelming belief that the tweets support an argument (or disproving a statement in this case), the judge can order a subpoena to acquire them. Tweets and emails are no different than paper letter or other tangible form of media - cassette, video tape included.

Very true, but this website posts every possible story about our 'rights' being violated. The last non-story was Blizzard's storing of it's own IP address in your screenshots of WoW. I understand it though, it brings in the readers and discussion.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I'm by far no legal expert, hell, I'm sure that most of us aren't, so take my word with a grain of salt, but I believe twitter was arguing that the user owns their tweets, which if true, means that he would be incriminating himself, therefore it would not be taken into court.

That being said, from that stance, all it means is that twitter was trying to side step it.

Well, when you get arrested they tell you, 'you have the right to reamin silent.' Because 'anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.'

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The way I see Twitter is it's no different than any Newspaper publisher as far as responsibility. The only difference is a Newspaper can monitor what they publish before they print. Twitter would have to monitor afterward if they do so at all. Both of which can be help responsible for the content they contain.

Tygerstrike said:

See Twitter in reality is a public forum. No different then say a large college square filled with students. You post your Tweet knowing that ppl you know are going to read what you post. Also ppl you dont know. So Twitter having to hand over this information is no different then any other organization that has access to the information. The have a copy of what was tweeted. They keep a copy (that in itself is a tad disturbing), then the Law has the right to request it. I applaud the gentleman in question for standing up for what he believes in, however there is consiquences for doing so when you buck what is considered the norm.

TJGeezer said:

Thrown under a bus? Whaa...?

I can't fault Twitter for resisting as far as they legally could, then complying with a court order. As for who owns tweets, isn't the fact of tweeting stuff equivalent to publishing it? - and if it has already been published, seems to me there is no privacy at stake here. Just trying to reason my way through it here. No doubt anyone in the legal profession could make the dispute as tangled as they wanted, but essentially, published material has been made public already. Where is the privacy issue involved?

Note - I'm no fan of Twitter or any other big corporation. Not trolling either. I just don't see a legitimate issue here, and I don't often disagree with the ACLU or its grasp of constitutional law, which clearly exceeds that of congress, the Corporate Supremes or the president.

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