back to article Twitter forced to hand over user details to English council

Twitter has handed over users' details following a demand from a local council in North East England that took its complaint to California, forcing the micro-blogging site to comply with a US court order. It's understood to be the first legal action of its kind in the UK and comes after intense pressure has surrounded Twitter …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    heh

    worst thing about this case is that the council decided to take the action in what should be a personal case, the council can't enter the case only the individual counsellors, or will the council pay for the legal action for anyone in their area who feels they've been libelled by twitter users?

    The Counsellors should be required to pay the money back it cost to get the legal assistance.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Give us some details!

    Did the California Court really issue an order, or did Twitter fold?

    If so, on what legal basis of US &/or California Law did the Court honor the subpena request?

    Tell us something important.

    1. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Libel is not protect speech

      Presumably this is the same law that the State Supreme Courts have said did not the protect names of anon IP addresses posting to wikipedia to be revealed. The US 1st amendment does not hold for speech that is actionable as libellous.

      http://lawkipedia.com/social-networking/identity-of-anonymous-wikipedia-editors-not-protected-by-first-amendment.html

      1. David Neil

        In the US

        You only have to demonstrate that you have a reasonable belief that that statement was true, as opposed to the UK position where you have to prove it.

        The question still remains, on what legal grounds did the council challenge on?

        1. Throatwobbler Mangrove
          Boffin

          The answer, my friend...

          ...is on page 65/66 (!) of the complaint which was linked to above: http://openaccess1.sanmateocourt.org/getpdf/pdftemp/201105281722593538/A-0000074796-1.pdf

          The council is suing for libel, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

          The court order requiring Twitter to provide the information isn't a finding that the council has proved the statements were libellous, an invasion of privacy etc. It's also not penalising Twitter in any way. It's just allowing them to find out who to sue. The council hasn't proven anything...there is still a long, hard, expensive litigation journey to go on yet...

    2. LordBrian
      WTF?

      Well said

      It appears Mr Monkey may be on the right track after all.

      I hope the Local Councils Ombudsman or somebody hits them hard for what is a criminal waste of Council funds. Gadaffi would be proud of these councillors.

    3. oldredlion
      Holmes

      Not for profit

      "The Counsellors should be required to pay the money back it cost to get the legal assistance."...

      and if they make any extra they should pay that, as well.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      I don't get that?

      They were slandered because of their position as councillors. Those working for us should be protected from lies and propaganda. I don't want someone telling me that someone who works for me is crap at their job, when in actual fact the opposite is true.

      If the tweets were NOT libel I could see your point of view.

      As it stands the council is bringing a case which I assume they are doing not just to name these twitter users but also to bring some form of compensation, which would go to the councils coffers based on the fact its their case and not a personal one. Loser pays.

      To me you are just jumping on the tabloid bandwagon of any public spending is bad but jobs must be saved. How many nurses could this case have paid for?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    This is why

    you use a program like TOR with a throwaway twitter account for true anonymity

  4. JakeyC
    Big Brother

    *REAL* user details?

    Who signs up to twitter using real personal info*?

    What do the council hope to do when these details come back?

    NAME: Bob

    SURNAME: Monkey

    ADDRESS1: 99 Nostreet

    ADDRESS2: Nowhereville

    PCODE: F4 1SE

    *Besides the foolish, that is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *REAL* user details?

      People are upvoting that. I was hoping JakeyC might be a one off moron for not figuring out how to use the details but apparently not.

    2. Wild Bill

      IP address?

      It's these weird numbers tied to your ISP account.

      Next step would be to hound the ISP to tell them who you are.

      Safest thing to do when posting libel on Twitter would be to sign up in an internet cafe / library using false info and post your gossip from there, then never ever log into it on your home connection.

      1. JakeyC
        FAIL

        @Chris W, Wild Bill

        "Under the order, plantiffs obtained the name, address, email address, telephone number and geographical location of the users behind the five Twitter accounts."

        No IP addresses mentioned there.

        Even so, an IP address ties your username to *AN* ISP account.

        -1 for not understanding how the internet works.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. JakeyC
            Trollface

            Care to explain?

            Care to expand on your learned assesment of my status as a 'moron'? No, really - I don't comprehend your point.

            Twitter can release whatever they like, but false details in = false details out. Maybe you're just venting your spleen because you're kicking yourself for not having anonymised your own signup details?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Care to explain?

              >Care to expand on your learned assesment of my status

              No, you wouldn't understand, and you won't find me on twitter, facebook, linkedin... Only here, see me anywhere else and it's an imposter.

              1. JakeyC
                Megaphone

                Fair enough

                You're right, I doubt you'd be able to articulate your explanation to a high enough level for me to understand it.

                Probably for the best, as I'm going to go now and leave you to argue with yourself.

                Remember people, arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics; even if you win, you're still retarded.

                1. peter 45
                  Facepalm

                  bored bored

                  Really bored.

                  Have we got to the end of watching who is waving the biggest wanger yet?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Whos been using the wireless

          AN ISP account doesn't prove anything or anyone. IP address can NOT be tied down to an individual becuase IP addresses can be spoofed, plus Wifi can be hacked -2 for you mate

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Whos been using the wireless

            Ah, the wi-fi defence, and everybody uses bit-torrent only to download the latest linux distro.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              le sigh

              if you're smart and you do such things you use a heavily used public access point, so a starbucks in a city or an internet cafe, etc. Woohoo you get an ip address and a time but seen as it's civil how are you going to pin that down to a person?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Great Fucking Use of Taxpayers' Hard Earned

    Q: When did the US become extended to the UK for legal reasons?

    A: Watch George Michael's video with Tony and Dubya and find out for yourself!

    I was driving and heard this on the radio and practically lost the will to live. Now Who can I see to not pay my Council Tax in protest?

  6. gerryg
    Terminator

    £75,000 pissed up the wall, to start...

    is another way of looking at it

    http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/monkey-business/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Can I just say

      That the new spawn of satan icon looks remarkably like my girlfriends new handbag, should I worry?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Worry? No.

        Only if you wear the wrong shoes with it.

  7. Roger Varley
    Facepalm

    Why won't anyone think of ...

    ... the Streisand effect

  8. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Up

    Let's hope it smokes out the tosser(s)

    Whilst I'm not convinced of the individual merit of this case (why is the council doing this and not the individuals?), I support anything that helps to route out spineless twats who use the web to attack others anonymously because they know they're peddling crap or breaking laws.

    And I'm include in this those who named Giggs: what the fuck gives THEM the right to discuss someone else's private life with the rest of the world?

    1. tomjol
      FAIL

      Let's turn that around...

      What the fuck gives YOU the right to decide what other people can discuss?

      I might be inclined to agree with the first bit of your post, if it wasn't all being paid for with taxpayers' cash.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @tomjol

        >What the fuck gives YOU the right to decide what other people can discuss?

        You're missing the point, no-one is saying you can't discuss whatever you want but that you should not be allowed to freely spread unfounded rumours nor gossip just because you think you can. I'm not sure of the exact details of this case but if the libellous comments were made in regard to the execution of the councillours duties then it's quite right that the council pay the legal fees which should be recovered from the alleged libeller if found guilty.

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Well...

      It's a free country, well more or less, and people are entitled to gossip? Twitter is seen as simply seen as an online water-cooler, where people gather to gossip about mundane shite.

      I have to agree that this will hopefully get things rolling against those who bully others through anonymous online accounts and services. How many stories must we hear about kids stringing themselves up because a bunch of scum think it's funny to bug them so much, these kids see suicide as the only solution?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @NogginTheNog (if that is indeed your real name....)

      Not sure if you are trolling or just really stupid. I'll guess stupid, I think.

      So, given that you have posted anonymously, are clearly a spineless twat and are using the web to attack others, you now are duty bound to route yourself out. Off you go, old chap - name, address, date of birth, mother's maiden name, bank account details and NI number should be good to start with.

    4. david 63

      First of all...

      ...you're right, the councillor's should have coughed up if they are that bothered. 50-75k would buy an awful lot of adult social care.

      Second of all, you're wrong. You've conflated the libel with gagging orders that buy privacy for the rich.

      And that's as far as I will go to pander to your attention seeking.

    5. Dabooka Silver badge
      FAIL

      So do I assume

      that "NogginTheNog" is your birth name then?

      I mean, why else would be posting anonymously to attack others?

      1. NogginTheNog

        Why not use my real name?

        Erm well maybe that's because the Google monster indexes everything and never forgets, and I do prefer a bit of privacy, just like Giggsy. Hmmm how many others on here post using their real names..?

  9. Joe K
    FAIL

    Yawn

    Even if Twitter gave up the IP addresses surely they'd then have to petition each Internet Provider to do a log trace or whatever it is?

    Then you have the old "wasn't me, and WTF is an IP address?" defense.

    What a waste of time and money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Technical Experts

      The way they have hired technical experts to help them with this makes it sound like all they have to go on is an IP address. They will have to spend more money to subpoena the service providers now...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legend has it that monkey hanging was done in...

    ... Hartlepool (not on Tyneside)

  11. gaz 7
    FAIL

    Expensive publicity

    I saw this on the BBC news site, and was taken aback as South Tyneside is my council and it is my money they are wasting.

    First thing I did was start googling to find the blogs and read them, as I am sure everyone else has, so it has just funded a massive publicity campaign for the blogs and the allegations and made them massively more public.

    Regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, there is no way I would ever vote labour in my local elections again after reading them. I hope this all leads to a full invesigation, and people being brought to account over this and or the original allegations.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Bingo!

      "Regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, there is no way I would ever vote labour in my local elections again after reading them"

      And thus the justification for pursuing the action.

  12. david 63

    Don't they know...

    ...they should get the super injunction first so no one knows they are chucking the residents' money at lawyers.

  13. g7rp0

    sooo easy

    There are a multitude of ways to remain annonymous, this is a complete waste of time.

    @tomjol yeah I agree with you but you have to question the intelligence of a professional football player doing the following.

    having am affair with a big brother wannabe who I seem to remember has already done the same with another footballer/

    And trying to cover it up when all the papers knew about it, surely he must have realised that the game was up.

    I think the whole thing has gotten silly but thats partly his fault, the whole thing should have been between his wife and him but in our pathetically celeb obsessed society it was never likely to be

    1. There's a bee in my bot net

      Fixed that for you...

      you have to question the intelligence of a professional football player.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Wrong!

      There's a 3rd party here - the big brother wannabe. She chose to speak openly about the affair. As long as what she says is truthful and accurate then she should not be gagged by anyone else. Anything else is a denial of the right to free speech.

  14. Rob 5

    reports suggest it cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to secure.

    Could do, certainly, if they went the traditional route and hired a big firm of lawyers in the UK who then subcontracted the job to some equally expensive lawyers in the USA.

    OTOH, this kind of stuff can be done quite cheaply, if you download the forms, fill them out yourself and just hire somebody to take them to the court. For an uncontested subpoena (as this was) you're looking at a range of a few hundred dollars (to pay a local ambulance chaser to stand in front of a judge for 5 minutes) down to as little as $50 if it fits one of the "accelerated subpoena" classes that Federal law provides for (there's one for copyright infringement, for example) where all you need do is get a local private investigator to put it in front of a court clerk for stamping.

    Of course, I doubt that the council even thought of going the cheaper route. So that's a second charge of wasting public funds on the charge sheet, then.

    Also, since councils can't sue for defamation, and given that they're probably planning some "alternative" form of retribution rather than honestly intending to follow through with legal action in CA, there's the question of whether they made a bad faith declaration in their demands for a jury trial, etc. in California.

    Incidentally, I also find fault with the way that they've set out several of the counts, in that they've been sloppy about where the act began and where it ended (they really only needed to show one of those was in CA, to establish jurisdiction) and proving harm to the defendants "in the state of California" would seem difficult since it's unlikely that any of them have a reputation there to be damaged.

    And the paragraph numbering looks messed up.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Twitter he not?

    I've never used Twitter before, but I went to Twitter and entered "Mr Monkey" in the search box, and couldn't find him, only references *to* him on other people's feeds. Am I missing something, or have I come to the party so late that he's been removed?

    1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

      +1

      +1 simply for the title.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Who's the biggest Twit?

    The twitterer ot the twits who try and fight against them?

  17. Jon Press

    I know politicians get no sympathy, but...

    ... perhaps they're simply being realistic. I know the blabbering sophisticates take the view that it's just idle gossip that does not harm, but when a statement like:

    "Regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, there is no way I would ever vote labour in my local elections again after reading them."

    is made on El Reg and thumbed-up by its readers, you do start to wonder if the universal franchise is not the cause of our declining standards of government.

    1. Neil Hoskins
      Facepalm

      context

      I think you've taken his comments out of context. Maybe it's the criminal waste of taxpayer's money that's decided his future voting habits....

  18. gaz 7
    Black Helicopters

    J.G. Harston - Twitter he not?

    Google is your friend here - there are three blogs all hosted by wordpress and findable with the slightest bit off google-fu.

    Makes for interesting reading.

    Waiting for the council's black helicopter to start circling my house soon...

  19. Neil Hoskins
    Black Helicopters

    "...celebrities said to have taken out injunctions..."

    If that's what this debate has been reduced to then it's a real shame. To me it was always more about not being allowed to say that Banker A has been found to be incompetent, or that Russian B trying to buy an English football club is an ex-con.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      With you on this...

      It would be more constructive for some of the twiterati to repeat things printed in Private Eye, or shown on Watchdog and got those wider currency than publish what celebs have been doing and with who in their own time.

      For some reason despite Mr Hislop's public persona (well HIGNFY) of not caring about football, there's nearly always a piece about the twisted world of football club finances in Private Eye.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    anonymous...

    use some elses machine or visit the local t'internet cafe

  21. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Absolute Disgrace

    Costs amounted to "less than £75,000" So we have 4 council workers using anywhere up to £74,999 to persue a private legal matter between them and the accused. Why the hell was this use of public funds authorised?

    In no way should this council ever have spent public money on this, someone making comments on twitter does not hinder them doing their DUTY, the things that they SHOULD be doing with the money that has been collected from TAXPAYERS pockets, going on an expenses paid jolly to california is not one of those things

    Where the hell do these councilors get the impression they are entitled to abuse public funds this way? If they fail to win any legal action the taxpayer foots the bill, if they do win do we honestly think for even a minute the money would have gone back into the public funds?? They should all be sacked, have to repay every penny and fined an additional 50k for gambling with public money

    The telling thing about this.. is that these people thought it was appropriate to go to another country and legally challenge twitter to silence free speech, how many times have they done this within the UK that we didnt get to hear about?

  22. David Gale

    "Cause Harm in the State of California"??? - Page 63 Lines 26-27

    I wonder how far the Plaintiffs read? Follow the link from the article to the original complaint filed in the californian Court. then look at Page 63 lines 26-27.

    The case appears to rest on the Defendants knowing that "such statements would cause harm to the Plaintiffs IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA"

    Oooops!

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