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back to article Twitter bows to subpoena, releases Occupy protester's tweets

Twitter has succumed to threats of contempt of court charges and significant fines, and has handed over a trove of tweets from Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris to a Manhattan Criminal Court. The tweets had been subpoenaed by the Manhattan district attorney's office, which demanded that Twitter provide it with access …

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Bronze badge
Meh

Although Twitter's attempt to fight this was admirable, it seems to me the best defense against being forced to hand over records is simply not to have them. Why do they need to keep a copy of tweets that are "no longer available online"?

I'm not a Twitter user though, so if there's actually a good reason, I'd be curious to know.

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Thumb Up

RE: Old Handle

I would up-vote this a thousand times if I could. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the ONLY defense against being forced to hand over such records is not to have them. In the US there are no standing laws that would force Twitter to retain any record of these sorts of online interactions so perhaps this will serve as a wake up call. Such a stance on privacy could be a major selling point for their service in fact. The only use I can see for storing historical tweets would be for data-mining purposes, so perhaps such a move would be difficult for Twitter financially though.

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Re: RE: Old Handle

If you want privacy you use weibo not twitter.

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JDX
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Re: RE: Old Handle

If Twitter said they didn't keep the data, would that 100% hold up in court? The court might decide they are responsible TO keep data - if I post something illegal on Twitter and then remove it, they should not allow me to delete it and get away scot free.

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Re:JDX

"if I post something illegal on Twitter and then remove it"

So if I shout something illegal in a public place whose job is it to record it?

I think great effort should be put into deleting midless drivel and only storing stuff thats required to be stored. The worlds RAID arrays are groaning under billions of petebytes of crap that shouldve been deleted but hasnt either because people

-think they might need it, dont realise there are 50 other copies around

-dont know its being retained (twitter)

-dont know how

-dont have any concept of digital 'space'

etc

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE: Old Handle

If you really want/value privacy you don't use any of them.

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Boffin

Re: Re:JDX

"...so if I shout something...." But in shouting you are not using any transmission medium but your own voice. If, however, you were acting in a certain role, say as a company's or organisation's representative, then your statement reflects on them and they can be sued. By using Twitter there is the inference that Twitter, as the broadcaster or "publisher", has approved or enabled that comment. For their own protection, companies like Twitter will keep records of tweets so they can defend themselves against accusations of having been used to distribute illegal material or comments. That retention leaves them open to requests for records by th authorities.

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Bronze badge

How did you get an upvote?

Unless it was from the tosser who downvoted random K, this place must be lousy with nits on.

In the USA you are allowed to say anything.

If he had incited a crime, there may have been grounds to prosecute once a crime had been committed. But tweeting that he was going to go on a bridge is not a crime even if it is against the law to go on a bridge. Encouraging others to join him is hardly even a misdemeanour.

Twitter aught to lose a lot of their free paying customers when their only consners are the police in what is coming to be seen as the United Police States of America.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How did you get an upvote?

aught

LOL.

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@mark 63: Re: Re:JDX

"I think great effort should be put into deleting midless drivel "

Nice!

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@I.App... Re: How did you get an upvote?

"In the USA you are allowed to say anything."

This is not true. This is probably not even close to being true anywhere in the entire world. It is impossible to imagine any polity in the world where people are "allowed to say anything".

I would think that if we consider the polities that have laws against libel, defamation, and slander; blasphemy (encompassing pretty nearly the entire Moslem world, and only a very few other polities), lese majesty; incitement to race hatred; laws against harassment including but not limited to racial, ethnic, and sexual harassment (in which the sanctioned conduct is purely verbal); endangerment (i.e. by shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater), conspiracy (possibly a borderline case), and, perhaps most pertinent to this discussion "incitement" - and this list is not to be considered exhaustive by any means! - we would find that there may be almost no places in the world where one is "allowed to say anything".

I have omitted many instances of restrictions of freedom of speech which are more limited in scope, such as, for example, that fact that it is illegal, in Iran, to express support for Israel. or that "insulting Ataturk" is a crime in Turkey, as is Holocaust denial in Germany and a few other places in the West.

Need I even mention Truth-In-Advertising laws and similar?

Consider laws regarding what one is allowed to say in legal matters, or to government investigators or police, or in court. There are many documents which require, under penalty of law, truthful and exact answers. Making jokes (i.e. "fucking around") while undergoing a security screening in an airport in the US is an arrestable offense. Making threats against the President Of The United States is a very serious felony in the US. Examples can surely be multiplied at will.

There are countries with laws that prohibit mentioning the names of people under criminal investigations. I believe that there are also laws that guarantee anonymity to convicts who have served their sentences with, I believe, sanctions against (certain classes of?) parties that breach that anonymity (although I am not sure of how these laws operate.)

Then there are the odd cases concerning people like Irving Schiff, for example. But those are of much more limited scope.

Now, if you want to have a different but related discussion about things that you are legally allowed to say but which will land you in a hospital if you say them in the wrong place or to the wrong people, that is also an interesting discussion for which an *infinite* number of examples can be adduced...

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Boffin

For secure messaging…

…it would be hard to be Gliph: http://gli.ph/

I know the system’s developer, who has described to me in vague terms the cryptographic tricks he has used to create the database. Without the correct password, even having the entire contents of the Gliph database will not allow you to associate any pieces of content to any particular account. Not even Gliph can reconstruct the activity without the password.

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Facepalm

Re: For secure messaging…

".....Not even Gliph can reconstruct the activity without the password." In the UK that would be no protection whatsoever. The Police would ask for the password for your encrypted database, your buddy would decline, and then the Police would get a court order saying that if you didn't hand over the password then he gets to go to jail. Your buddy wets himself at the thought of close encounters in the jail showers, hands over the password, and all your private musings are belong to Plod. And, since you (stupidly) believed them to be untouchable (just like A$$nut and Jónsdóttir did with Twitter), you have probably said a lot of stuff you didn't want Plod to know. Cue a quick trip to the Ecuadorian embassy or it's jail shower scenes for you....

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@JDX

"The court might decide they are responsible TO keep data - if I post something illegal on Twitter and then remove it, they should not allow me to delete it and get away scot free."

That holds more truth than you know it. In the EU companies are bound by law to keep e-mails and logfiles and preserve them for at least 5 years. I don't think many companies actually comply with this law because storing all of that data would become quite a hassle. Even so; this is the law over here.

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Gold badge

Well, the inevitable result of that move would be the various agencies archiving the whole lot as it was published themselves. No change, apart from the removal of the need to play silly buggers in order to read it later.

Actually I am amazed they don't do this already. Being required to get a subpoena to access information that's already in the public domain seems like paperwork for the sake of it to me.

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Flame

The real 99%

I followed the whole 'occupy' protest thing in the media and the '99%' claim always seemed dubious to me. I didn't see a lot of homeless people and south Sudanese refugees protesting in wall st. Obviously, you can't rely on media supplied photo and video to not be biased or to properly represent the whole range of people involved, but it just seemed to me to be a bunch of privileged westerners complaining that they weren't a member of the elites gravy train. That's not to say that there are good and valid reasons to assess how the worlds economy privileges a small elite over the bulk of the population, I just don't think those protesting we're far off the 1% themselves.

In respect of the Twitter issue. I always work on the premise that if you put it online, don't be surprised if it gets used against you. Some more detail on why the courts feel they need his Twitter posts would be good. My assumption is that it has something to do with 'incitement'.

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Re: The real 99%

I am part of the 0%.

Let the 1% and the 99% destroy each other. When there is nothing left there will be me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real 99%

Two questions for the gent above:

"I didn't see a lot of homeless people and south Sudanese refugees protesting in wall st. "

a) What do homeless people and refugees from $countryOfOrigin are supposed to look like, according to your favourite stereotype? (incidental subquestion: have you actually been on Wall Street, or just seen some clips on TV?)

"it just seemed to me to be a bunch of privileged westerners complaining that they weren't a member of the elites gravy train."

b) Alternatively, have you entertained the idea that some people do actually give a shit about others and may wish to bring their plight to the attention of those in power?

You may be content with your own personal situation and not wish to bother about anyone else's, but that does not mean others won't be less egoistical (think you could never be that "anyone else" with no job, no money, and no home? As Eastwood would say, "do you feel lucky, punk?")

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The real 99%

What's a subquestion thicko?

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Re: The real 99%

The main problem I had with the Occupy movement was that it appeared to have no discernible goals beyond some nebulous idea of 'redistributing the wealth'.

I've never been to Wall St. but those camping outside St. Paul's in London seemed to be made up of 2 groups. The smaller group consisted of the usual 'anarchist' types who turn up at nearly every protest. They're usually demanding a change in economic or political systems. When you ask them to explain how the systems they want changed actually work, they rather quickly reveal themselves to have absolutely no clue.

The majority of protesters seemed to be middle class teenagers and students. When I asked them what they were about I was offered no more than comments along the lines of 'The rich have all the money and the poor don't have much. That's bad mmmkay?".

No shit. I'm so glad you've clogged up central London to make me aware of this terrible injustice. I'd never have noticed by myself.

These are the same people who get Mum and Dad to pay for a trip to Africa or Asia. They then spend the next 3 months building a wooden shack, call it a school (despite having no books or qualified staff), and then return home thinking they've saved the world.

The Occupy movement had no solutions to offer, it was simply an excuse to stand around waving placards and feel good about 'doing something'.

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FAIL

Freedom 2.0

While agreeing (wholeheartedly) with the Post by 'Old Handle' <although, you, me & many of the readers of these pages know this reflects Twitters' desire to "one day" figure out a way to monetize all that luvly big data> and ignoring completely the self-aggrandizing, self-centred, self-indulgent, etc mealy mouthing of Mr Xion, what I want to know is:

When a Court in Iran/Syria/China/choose-a-State-thats-not-USA threatens Twitter with a hefty fine; why was/is/will it be so easy for them to stand on their mighty principles?!

I guess that, as usual, there's one rule for the fine, upstanding freedom-loving Folks across the Atlantic, and another one for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, to anyone involved in any form of protest who touchingly thinks that their 'privacy' will be assured by organisations as devoutly privacy-loving as TOR or Wikileaks, let alone Facebook or Twitter. Welcome to the real world.

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JDX
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Re: Freedom 2.0

"When a Court in Iran/Syria/China/choose-a-State-thats-not-USA threatens Twitter with a hefty fine; why was/is/will it be so easy for them to stand on their mighty principles?!"

Because it's pretty damn difficult for a non-US court to actually impose/collect any fines on a US company. Seriously, you needed to even ask the question? They gave it up to the US courts because they operate under US law (and presumably many of the owners live in the US). Your little rant about morals doesn't have a place here.

"Meanwhile, to anyone involved in any form of protest who touchingly thinks that their 'privacy' will be assured by organisations as devoutly privacy-loving as TOR or Wikileaks, let alone Facebook or Twitter. Welcome to the real world."

Agreed. However I'd go further and suggest that thinking you're somehow entitled to privacy when you say something online "because it's the internet" is bogus. If you post something illegal online you damn well should be able to have that used against you.

As the pro-privacy/openness crowd point out, our data is very important. That cuts both ways - it's important it is treated with responsibility in ALL ways.

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Re: Freedom 2.0

Because it's pretty damn difficult for a non-US court to actually impose/collect any fines on a US company.

------->- gosh, so I guess when Courts in the UK, France, Germany & the EU imposed fines on US Banks they paid up because their altruistic? (go on, I dare you to tell me those companies have a vested interest in being physically present - LOL) there are many example of pan-international collaboration in courts of LAW. The issue here is when one particular State declares its Laws are first amongst equals and should be adhered to because they are [sic] the good guys

Seriously, you needed to even ask the question? They gave it up to the US courts because they operate under US law (and presumably many of the owners live in the US).

------->- seriously, you cannot understand the use ironic narrative in this Post? seriously? Perhaps I should use small words...here we go:..> It seems to be ok for a US Co to stand on a moral principle (oops, a bit long that word - hope your still with me) when it aligns against the Worlds "bad guys" and follows the views of its country of origin. But, if it upsets those who govern in its origin country, then it's much-marketed adherence to 'freedom & privacy' vanishes, because apparently a court in its country of origin is more honest & true than some 'foreigner'

Your little rant about morals doesn't have a place here.

------>- Morality (or how relative, transient and, ultimately, hypocritical it all is) is the fundamental here. Ask the Electonic Freedom Foundation...or the individual who will now have his petard hoisted on the noose of Twitters Moral standing.

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Bronze badge

Two points here, one thumb up, the other thumb down.

Firstly, "Twitter bows to subpoena, releases Occupy protester's tweets":

And so they should, this is how the law works, you want something, you MUST obtain a court order to get it.

Without a court order, you get Jack Schitt.

If this were not the case, you'd be living in a Police state. And I don't mean that in a figurative sense, it really is unpleasant constanly looking over your shoulder every time you scratch your arse.

Secondly, Harris is knob for thinking Twitter is his private communcations system.

There are many other ways of communicating in non-tracable means, he chose none of them.

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Silver badge

There is no privacy when you broadcast.

or when you talk to people you don't actually know.

or use a medium you don't control.

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Anonymous Coward

succumed?

LOL @ Murrikan spelling.

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Anonymous Coward

Social Media?

It always feels like Government Controlled Social Media. I don't have Facebook or Twitter, but it seems like even my MS Skydrive is at risk nowadays. I am starting to think the Internet is done for me. The "Cloud" might be a Government Cloud.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social Media?

Why amdo you sound surprised? When you put your bits and bytes out on someone else's infrastructure, they can be subpoenaed and compelled to hand over your data.

At least this required a court order - which it should.

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Mushroom

Yabba Dabba Doo on the loose...

So Bummer Harris prattled on a publicly accessible broadcast medium where anyone archiving the feed could have decided there was incitement and sent it in and we have our knickers in a twist over a Subpoena under duly constituted process of law...

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WTF?

Re: Yabba Dabba Doo on the loose...

You're right, it's ludicrous.

This is the electronic equivalent of remembering what the grafitti used to say on that recently cleaned wall. Presumably your memory of that violates someone's privacy in the minds of the arsehats here. The only reason for knicker-knotting is the monumental waste of judicial time in issuing subpoenas to access an archive of public domain information.

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Boffin

Re: Re: Yabba Dabba Doo on the loose...

"....The only reason for knicker-knotting is the monumental waste of judicial time in issuing subpoenas to access an archive of public domain information." I'm guessing the prosecution want to prove the veracity of the information beyond doubt. If it was merely a case of the Police saying "he said this on Twitter", and then the defence says "prove that's what he said and not just something you made up", having Twitter's own logs sinks the defence quite nicely.

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