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Twitter: Defender of Constitutional Rights

Twitter is often asked to give up user information to government agencies and Twitter often complies. Not this time.

What’s the Latest Development?

Last January and then again in March, Twitter was asked to hand over the tweets and personal information of accounts that were thought to be used by Malcolm Harris. Harris had been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as a part of an Occupy Wall Street protest. “Twitter had moved to quash the government’s 2703 orders, but in July, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ordered Twitter to release the tweets and account information, ruling that Harris had no expectation of privacy in tweets that were published.” On Monday, Twitter asked for the court to reconsider.

What’s the Big Idea?

“More powerful than a subpoena, but not as strong as a search warrant, a 2703(d) order is supposed to be issued when prosecutors provide a judge with ‘specific and articulable facts’ that show the information they seek is relevant and material to a criminal investigation. The people targeted in the records demand, however, don’t have to themselves be suspected of criminal wrongdoing.” In this case, Twitter is arguing for protections under 1st and 4th amendment rights as members of Twitter have “proprietary interest” in their tweets and personal information. Although Twitter is going to court over these requests, that is not normally the case, the company revealed. In the last year they have complied with some or all of about 70 percent of the 679 requests they have received.

Photo Credit: Annette Shaff /


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