Twitter Subpoenaed in Occupy Wall Street Case

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Twitter Subpoenaed in Occupy Wall Street Case

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Twitter has been subpoenaed by the city of New York as a witness in a criminal case against an Occupy Wall Street activist.

The next time you're thinking about using Twitter to organize anything more subversive than a strawberry social, you might want to think about the case of young Malcolm Harris, AKA @destructuremal, a lad from New York City who apparently took part in the recent Occupy movement. Because of his activities during the demonstrations, and more specifically because he presumably tweeted about them, the City of New York has issued a subpoena commanding Twitter to appear "as a witness in a criminal action prosecuted by the People of the State of New York against Malcolm Harris."

The subpoena calls for "any and all user information, including email address, as well as any and all tweets posted for the period of 9/15/2011 - 12/31/2011" by Harris. And while a steadfast "up yours!" sounds fun and romantic, it also warns that failure to produce the documents could result in a criminal contempt of court charge, resulting in a $1000 fine and up to a year in prison.

And what heinous crime did Harris commit, you may wonder, that justifies dredging up more than three months of tweets and other information? It appears to be related to his Occupy Wall Street activity - according to Betabeat, he was "tweeting from the front lines of the now infamous Brooklyn Bridge mass arrests" - but as Harris himself noted, that charge is merely a "disorderly conduct violation," hardly worth all this trouble. "They clearly want to see what I was saying around Sept. 17th for unrelated reasons," he wrote.

Regardless of Harris' alleged crimes, the Twitter subpoena, if successful, will almost certainly have a chilling effect on its use in any kind of group activism, such as coordinating demonstrations and tracking detained demonstrators. And that's quite possibly the intent - deter similar "uprisings" in the future by restricting the ability of individuals to communicate. But that flies in the face of the praise Twitter and other social networks earned during the Arab Spring, when it was given credit "as a tool to both inspire and reflect the Arab street."

Harris said he's trying to "dream up a legal strategy that quashes the Twitter subpoena," but the clock is ticking, as Twitter said it will hand the documents over in seven days "unless there's a motion to quash or another reason not to." Not that the company is rolling over for the Man entirely: Twitter was also ordered "not to disclose the existence of this subpoena to any party [as] such disclosure would impede the investigation being conducted and interfere with the enforcement of law," but Harris said it sent him a copy of the document anyway.

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Well that's strange... Will they bring a blue bird to the court?

And THIS is how PETA fails.

PETA? Wrong thread I think, buddy.

What exactly was he doing on sept the 17th that they want to know about, I wonder.

Pinkamena:
Well that's strange... Will they bring a blue bird to the court?

I'd pay to watch that.

imnotparanoid:

Pinkamena:
Well that's strange... Will they bring a blue bird to the court?

I'd pay to watch that.

It'd be hilarious if they brought in every person that worked for Twitter just to slow down legal procedures.

Remember kids, when participating in subversive activities, wear a mask IRL or online.

Torrasque:

imnotparanoid:

Pinkamena:
Well that's strange... Will they bring a blue bird to the court?

I'd pay to watch that.

It'd be hilarious if they brought in every person that worked for Twitter just to slow down legal procedures.

Remember kids, when participating in subversive activities, wear a mask IRL or online.

Or better yet, wear a Guy Fawkes mask, and that way anon can take all the blame!

We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

Tanis:
And THIS is how PETA fails.

This made me laugh far more than it should have.

OT: His tweets are irrelevent. If he was arrested for disorderly conduct, the police already know what he was doing. He was conducting himself in a disorderly fashion.

I see a problem with the precedent but honestly if this guy is trying his hardest not to let this happen you gotta wonder how incriminating the stuff on his twitter is :/

My guess along the lines of weapons. . .

Ah, what we can't legislate, we will legislate against. Good work.

Think we can get Ocean Marketing, Rupert Murdoch against Obama, Obama versus Kanye "jackass" West, #Shakespalin, Dane Deutsch ("Hitler was a great leader"), #Iamspartacus all arrested?

Or is it only the people using a social media for broadcasting the truth that others want to deny?

Maybe we should just rely on the old-fashioned media like News International? They've never[1] lied to us.

[1] Often, and with malicious intention

JaceArveduin:

Torrasque:

imnotparanoid:

I'd pay to watch that.

It'd be hilarious if they brought in every person that worked for Twitter just to slow down legal procedures.

Remember kids, when participating in subversive activities, wear a mask IRL or online.

Or better yet, wear a Guy Fawkes mask, and that way anon can take all the blame!

That was indirectly what I meant, lol.
I'm sure Anon would love the extra attention anyways.

Pinkamena:
Well that's strange... Will they bring a blue bird to the court?

I found this very amusing.

OT: This is kindof distressing. I don't use Twitter, but I appreciate it's uses. I don't want there to be any sort of chilling effect on freedom of speech, and this subpoena looks like it just might have that effect.

[sadface]

Given that Twitter is a corporation, just who in the hell are they threatening with jailtime if they don't turn the stuff over? I'd think they'd need to be a bit more specific about that.

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

Call me old fashioned but I think there is a significant difference between enforcing a law passed by government produced from a free and fair election and enforcing a law from unelected dictator. I strongly suspect if was the Aryan Nation demonstrating about Jewish bankers you wouldn't have posted that. So if you want to murder someone all have do is hire a hitman on twitter and you escape scott free. The consequence of not allowing tweets to stand as evidence is even more chilling to a free society.

... They don't need his tweets to charge him with that at all do they?

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

Your lack of faith in FreedomTM is disturbing; you will be duly reported to the Ministry of Homeland Security, and have your outlook processed through Rupert Murdoch's national Strength-Through-Verified-Truth program.

I'm sorry, I must be missing something here. Aren't Twitter Feeds already public? Couldn't a legal assistant just scroll down on the feed, then copy and print them? Those could then be submitted as evidence to a judge without the need to drag Twitter into the mess with a subpoena. After all, how much more information are they expecting to get? His location if tweeting from a mobile device? A location that the court should already know about, if a disorderly conduct charge was filed against him.

I don't use Twitter myself, so I'm not sure what kind of customer privacy services Twitter offers that would require a subpoena to uncover.

albino boo:

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

Call me old fashioned but I think there is a significant difference between enforcing a law passed by government produced from a free and fair election and enforcing a law from unelected dictator.

That's not old-fashioned. The various founders of Democracy knew perfectly well that free and fair elections are capable of producing unjust results, and took steps accordingly. A democratically produced undemocratic and unjust law is an undemocratic and unjust law, full stop. (If you still doubt that, consider an extreme case: the U.S.A., by its constitution, could at any time, with sufficient votes, amend said constitution to make itself no longer a Democracy in any way, shape, or form.)

albino boo:
So if you want to murder someone all have do is hire a hitman on twitter and you escape scott free.

Or, y'know, unrecorded speech. Any rookie detective knows you follow the cash. (Besides, everyone should know by now that all "hitmen for random hire" are cops. And the rest of the hitmen are "employed" in one way or another.)

albino boo:
The consequence of not allowing tweets to stand as evidence is even more chilling to a free society.

Tweets are not going to single-handedly bring about anarchy and overthrow all law enforcement activities. In fact, they're virtually useless as criminal evidence no matter how you slice it. Just like "Disorderly Conduct" is a nonsense charge being used indiscriminately to harass (and almost never bother prosecuting) legitimate free speech that those in power just do not like.

Could they be trying to prove he got people down at the Occupy movement under false pretenses:

http://gawker.com/5868073/

Precedent:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/07/electric-daisy-hollywood-kaskade-hollywood-riot.html

It seems really weird to go after one guy without reason, unless they're trying to set a new precedent to create a new tactic in going after protesters.

Okay take a step back. All they're doing is trying to look at what messages Harris sent over this time. Haven't actually tried to restrict ANYTHING.
Invasion of privacy= maybe
Necessary for the case= NO
Threatening freedom of speech?= HELL NO

DVS BSTrD:
Okay take a step back. All they're doing is trying to look at what messages Harris sent over this time. Haven't actually tried to restrict ANYTHING.

If I was to commandeer the CCTV cameras around your city to verify your movements - without telling you why, would you not find that suspicious?

Especially if there were certain movements you don't remember, given it has been some time.

Can you positively swear, on the Bible, that you did not walk along this street - where the alleged murder happened - on that date?

The Prosecution says you did, and here's the evidence...

While an Eye-Witness can be judged, how do you judge a Tweet?

If every Tweet you've made, or every post here, had to stand up in court as evidence towards your "lifestyle"...how long would any of us last? Who here hasn't wished ill-health on Lucas, Kotick or others?

Can you be judged by words, rather than actions? It's the Freedom to speak without being judged in hindsight that's at stake here.

Before you go into the difference in actions taken against Occupy rather than the Tea Party or others.

For instance:

Rupert Murdoch:
So Obama has thrown in his lot withSilicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery. -

https://twitter.com/#!/rupertmurdoch/status/158317988284596224

That's defamation and libel on PotUS. In Blighty that would be high treason, I believe. And I didn't need a court order to get that.

Am I the only one who is siding with NYC on this?

1. NYC is Not restricting anything, they are just trying to find out what was said.
2. NYC has good reason to investigate what occurred during the Brooklyn Bridge mass arrests. We do not fully know what happened.
3. Tweets are not private. If I go out to a bar and rail for something that is questionably legal, the state does have the right to ask people, who were there, what I said. And they have the right to subpoena the surveillance tapes that the bar has.

If I made a website that was open to the public (ie I do not limit who can be users of the site) then the police, and anyone else, has the right to read what I post. If a police officer followed the guy on twitter, would there have been a problem?

FLT

Andy Chalk:
...Twitter was also ordered "not to disclose the existence of this subpoena to any party [as] such disclosure would impede the investigation being conducted and interfere with the enforcement of law," but Harris said it sent him a copy of the document anyway.

And that, my friends, is the most significant part of the article. I find it hard to believe that there's any legitimate reason for them to give that order.

Same as not presenting evidence in military tribunals because doing so "is a danger to national security".

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

In the words of the government, "we got us a freedom hatin' commie red here".

But yes, you are correct. This one may make it up the court system, but I doubt it will get to the supreme court as it won't hit any constitutional rights hard enough to get their attention. I mean he posted the stuff on twitter, law will probably say it is the same as if he screamed it on the streets.

I hope they drop this one though as it leaves a bed taste in my mouth. I mean without seeing the tweets what did he do that was wrong? Disorderly conduct is a nice catch all sort of crime.

Malcolm Harris should be charged with not having a job.

Maybe it's time for people who want privacy, to move back to Usenet to post messages. It's old, but you cannot easily be tracked on it....

I really don't find this alarming. Twitter isn't private, it's never pretended to be. And they did issue a subpoena, so there's due process involved. It's not like the FBI or DHS just called twitter and demanded everything out of the blue.

Maybe they want to get him on terroristic comments like they did the Englanders?

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

I don't follow. How is subpoenaing a few weeks worth of tweets for a court case tantamount to a communication blackout? Especially given that twitter is the internet equivalent of screaming something on a street corner.

How about the fact that though it's his account, there is no proof of exactly WHO posted what. A hacker could have easily taken it over and posted anything on it. While this may not be the case, what proof do they have that HE was the one who wrote everything that was wrote? No video evidence, and technically, any post on the internet is anonymous in the digital age when there are identity thefts around.

Umm... what happened to the world while I was away?!

This is very disturbing, I don't like the idea of the goverment able to get this kind of information for purposes of a police action over organized civil disobeidience. I believe people have a right to privacy, and something like this should go well beyond a court just being able to subpeona a service provider. They should have to go through a process very similar to obtaining permission to do a wiretap... perhaps that happened and it wasn't covered, but I doubt it.

The real issue here is that Twitter is rolling over as opposed to defending it's users right to privacy. Typically in such cases it hasn't been the user who has been put into a position of needing to defend themselves and come up with a way to prevent the information, but the information service itself defending it's integrity and the client's right to privacy.

See, as bad as the goverment doing this is, it's even worse when you see things like Twitter cooperating with it as opposed to throwing up their own walls and protesting.

It's going to be darkly amusing if a group like Anonymous finds a way to terroize Twitter and knock it offline for it's billions of users, and people start wondering "OMG, what did Twitter do"... I'm surprised this isn't getting more attention.

That said I don't use Twitter or even carry a mobile phone usually (for a number of reasons). To be honest I kind of feared things might go in this direction for a while now, but it moved faster than I expected. The potential for getting into people's business through interlinked phones, especially ones used as personal organizers, was always there, and we saw things with the police tracking people via cell phones and such (which has become so common they even use it for TV police dramas), but I thought we had at least until 2020 before data itself was going to be legally collected and used this way for petty crimes.

Basically not only is Big Brother watching, but your carrying him around in your pocket and whispering in his ear.

Andy Chalk:
We decry communications blackouts in oppressive regimes like Egypt and Syria, but isn't this really just a more subtle approach to the same thing?

That's kind of what I was thinking. It sets the precedent and people are less likely to tweet about what they feel is unjust action by the authorities <.<

This doesn't seem to be a free speech issue or such, they're just trying to find out what he wrote, but do they even need to subpoena his tweets? They're not private, that's sort of the point - especially if he wanted to tell people what was happening on the bridge.
This blunt approach again kind of points out how the people running things are out of touch with technology.

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