Twitter is still not backing down from its fight over releasing an Occupy Wall Street protester’s tweets, filing an appeal with New York Supreme Court requesting a reversal.
And, not surprisingly, the ACLU is filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support.
If you’re active online and haven’t been paying attention, this is a case to watch.
We hate to recap again, assuming you know the basics of the story by now, but just in case: The City of New York sent a subpoena to Twitter in February demanding it release all of Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris’ tweets between September 15 and December 31 2011, in connection with his participation in an October 1 Occupy Wall Street protest on Brooklyn Bridge.
Harris and Twitter (and the ACLU) keep saying “no, and here’s why” and the Court keeps coming back saying “nice try, but send the tweets.”
Well, in its latest attempt to quash the subpoena, Twitter has sent a 29 page brief appealing the decision. In it Twitter asserts many things – chief among them that “Twitter users own their Tweets and should have the right to fight invalid government requests.”
But Harris shouldn’t really expect privacy when posting online though, should he? Maybe not. But he should expect that his Constitutional Rights still apply in cyberspace. That’s a reasonable expectation, isn’t it? The ACLU thinks so:
Under the First and Fourth Amendments, 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. 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.
Beyond that, Twitter argues that “in addition to providing a casual means of communication for millions of people, Twitter also provides a voice for liberty across the globe.” And that’s something to stop and think about as well, isn’t it?
This ruling could have pretty dangerous consequences for some people, making Twitter irrelevant to freedom fighters.
And THAT gives us another thing to think about: Does self-preservation play a role in Twitter’s own activism here? And does that matter?
(Constitution image from Shutterstock)