Tech Court Says That You Do Not Own Your Own Tweets

Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by Steven Hodson


Court Says That You Do Not Own Your Own Tweets

Court Says That You Do Not Own Your Own Tweets

In October 2011 Malcom Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protester, was arrested while marching over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of an Occupy protest. In the following attempt to prosecute him the City of New York prosecutors office subpoenaed Twitter for three months of Harris’ Twitter history.

Harris first tried to block the prosecutors from getting his information but his request was denied when a judge compared Harris to a bank account holder who can challenge a subpoena of his bank records.

So then Twitter filed papers to challenge the court’s subpoena using the argument that a Twitter user owns their own Twitter content as outlined in the Twitter terms of service. The other argument also is what about the whole First Amendment freedom of speech?

Well it turns out neither arguments are not valid according to Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr, who said that he will review Harris’ Twitter material and provide only the relevant parts to the prosecutors.

The ACLU had this to say about the situation:

This decision is disappointing. But it’s not that surprising given that the court had already ruled on many of these issues when the user, Malcolm Harris, filed his own motion to quash. What is surprising, though, is that the court continued to fail to grapple with one of the key issues underlying this case: do individuals give up their ability to go to court to try to protect their free speech and privacy rights when they use the Internet? As we explained in our friend-of-the-court brief last month, the answer has to be no. The United States Supreme Court and courts around the country have repeatedly made clear that individuals whose constitutional rights are implicated by government requests for information to third parties (such as Twitter) have standing to challenge those third-party requests, and there’s no reason for the result to be different when Internet activities are at issue, regardless of whether individuals “own” their Internet speech or whether the Internet companies “own” it.

This could be setting a worrisome precedence and one would hope that this will be appealed.

via All Twitter



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About the Author

Steven has been around the tech world long enough to see most of the stuff we think of cool happen before which leads to a certain bit of cynicism that has contributed to him being known as the cranky old fart of the Internet. Besides sharing some of the goodness that he finds with you here at 42x you can also find him curating some digital goodness at Winextra (tech type stuff) and Rotten Gumdrops (for your daily dose of WTF).

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