Twitter Fights Court Request to Submit Tweet History of OWS Protester

By Beecher Tuttle May 09, 2012

In a move with far-reaching ramifications, Twitter has denied the request of prosecutors to disclose the tweet history of an activist involved in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests.

The micro-blogging site filed a motion with a New York State court on Monday to reverse a judge's court order demanding Twitter provide months of now-deleted tweets from the account of Malcolm Harris, an activist charged with disorderly conduct after marching across the Brooklyn Bridge as a form of protest, according to the Associated Press.

Prosecutors are looking for evidence that Harris was aware of the police order banning the march.

In its filing, Twitter argues against Judge Matthew Sciarrino's claim that Harris does not own the rights to his tweets. Sciarrino compared a user's social media history to a set bank records.

"Twitter's Terms of Service make absolutely clear that its users own their content. The Terms of Service expressly state: You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services," Twitter argued in its filing.

Attorneys from Twitter referenced protections afforded under the First Amendment and the Stored Communications Act, which requires a search warrant for content that is less than 180 days old. Twitter also pushed back on Sciarrino's claim that the Fourth Amendment provides protection over our physical homes, but not our "home on the Internet."

Twitter acknowledged that if it were forced to hand over the data records, the site would surely be setting a dangerous precedent for future cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised Twitter for its actions, calling the motion a "very big deal."

"Law enforcement agencies – both the federal government and state and city entities – are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to obtain information about what people are doing on the Internet," the ACLU statement read. "If Internet users cannot protect their own constitutional rights, the only hope is that Internet companies do so."

In a tweet, Harris expressed his gratitude to Twitter and said the motion "bodes well for my request currently in to Twitter PR to borrow one of their giant blue birds and ride it into court."

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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