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Twitter fights to protect its users’ information

Occupy Wall Street protestor at centre of storm
Tue Aug 28 2012, 09:26
The Twitter bird logo in blue on white

MICROBLOGGING SERVICE Twitter is fighting to protect one of its users, and is appealing a court order to hand over information on his communications.

The user is Malcolm Harris, described by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as an Occupy Wall Street protestor. Twitter is appealing a court order handed down in New York in June that demands "detailed information" on his communications.

In its brief, Twitter seeks to protect its user (PDF) under the First and Fourth Amendments. Its legal counsel Ben Lee said the firm will fight for all its users.

The ACLU says that it will support Twitter, and therefore the user - known online as @destructuremal - and called its support for Harris "bold". However it added that the firm should not have to go to these lengths.

"We have the right to speak freely on the Internet, safe in the knowledge that the government cannot obtain information about our communications or our private information unless law enforcement first satisfies First Amendment scrutiny and obtains a warrant showing probable cause," wrote Aden Fine, senior staff attorney at the ACLU in a blog post.

"The DA didn't do that here. Instead, it has tried to avoid these constitutional hurdles by issuing a mere subpoena for Harris's Twitter information.The courts shouldn't permit this."

The US government wants a lot of information about the Twitter user, including the content of his messages, the IP addresses he used to access the website, and the date, time and duration of sessions. Twitter has challenged this once already, and the earlier denial, says the ACLU, flies in the face of constitutional rights.

"According to the court, we give up our constitutional rights whenever we provide information to a third-party Internet service like Twitter," added Fine. "That holding is contrary to decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts around the country." µ


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