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Twitter To Appeal Turning Over Protester's Messages

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the keep-your-hands-off-my-tweets dept.

Twitter 71

angry tapir writes "Twitter plans to appeal a ruling to turn over the once-public tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester charged with disorderly conduct, a case the company says threatens the First Amendment rights of its users. A New York Criminal Court judge ruled last month that Twitter should turn over the tweets of Malcolm Harris, since his messages were public and are not the same as an email or a private chat, which would require a search warrant."

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Frist post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708519)

Frist post

Re:Frist post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708595)

You fucking piece of shit! ...I farted out of my asshole.

Good day to you, sir.

Re:Frist post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708819)

Did you use to fart out of other people's asshole?

Can the Public Become Private? (5, Interesting)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708523)

Imagine putting a sign on your front lawn. A month later you bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean the police no longer need a warrant? If twitter loses this appeal, the answer to that question will be no. It is essentially saying anything made public can never be made private. Now, if someone took pictures of that sign on your lawn, that's another matter. So a snapshot of a public site would be fair game. So much so, I wonder if the police monitor tweets and store potentially interesting ones?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (5, Insightful)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708537)

Imagine putting a sign on your front lawn. A month later you bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean the police no longer need a warrant? If twitter loses this appeal, the answer to that question will be no. It is essentially saying anything made public can never be made private. Now, if someone took pictures of that sign on your lawn, that's another matter. So a snapshot of a public site would be fair game. So much so, I wonder if the police monitor tweets and store potentially interesting ones?

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708643)

This is disorderly conduct. It is several orders of magnitude less than threatening to kill someone. Flipping off a cop, pissing in the street, having a temper tantrum, or being drunk in public are items that would normally be grouped under this crime. In the court that I used to work at the penalty was typically a $100 fine and 1 day in jail (which was credited even if you bailed out immediately). It is basically the judicial system's version of a time-out. With a lawyer, it would almost always result in a deferred sentence (no criminal record).

There is no value to the state in searching for evidence to this crime. If the state needs anything more than the statements of witnesses, the statements of the cops, or voluntarily turned over camera footage, then the prosecutor is wasting his or her time and scarce resources.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (2)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709165)

Of course members of the "Occupy" movement have engaged in far more serious behavior: Occupy Wall Street Blotter [nationalreview.com]

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710409)

If you care about the rule of law, you should be complaining about the crimes of bankers. Whatever laws the Occupy movement has broken pale in comparision to the crimes of Citibank, Countrywide, Goldman Sacks, MF Global, etc. If they can break the law and get away with it, why should we respect the law?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710891)

What makes you think he doesn't care about those crimes too?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711057)

If he did, he'd be condemning prosecutors for not having their priorities straight.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710903)

If he had posted this once it could have been a legit, if off-topic concern. Since he had to post it multiple times like an APK-wannabe, we can see he's just flamebaiting.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711007)

Are you referring to me, or ColdFjord? Any time people bring up the crimes committed by Occupy, they need to be reminded that Occupy happened because a much more powerful group committed much more serious and harmful crimes. There is nothing off topic or flamebait about pointing out who the real dangerous criminals in this country are.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716405)

Flipping off a cop... in public are items that would normally be grouped under this crime.

Excuse me? Flipping off a cop is an expression, which I have a right to. If they are giving out disorderly conduct tickets for flipping of a cop, or calling them a pig, something is definitely wrong.

What if I emailed it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708695)

If there are only 2 people party to the conversation, the person posting the twitter and the person reading it, is it public then?
If an email is sent from one person to another, is it public then, so public that we skip the warrant.

Why are they trying to skip the warrant BTW, what's wrong with them justifying their demand by a warrant???

What if the email is to 50 people on a mailing list, is it then public and doesn't need a warrant to demand it?

Re:What if I emailed it? (1)

darksabre (250838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709259)

Tweets are public as they can be read by any member of the public regardless of whether that someone is party to the conversation or not. A member of the public cannot read an email that was not sent to them at least not in the general case. So tweets are public, emails are mostly not. Emails can become public if they are sent to an email list with a publicly readable archive etc.

Warrants are costly and time consuming. Why use one if it is not needed? Do you like wasting time and throwing money away?

As to the specifics of this case, well get the tweets from a currently public source or get a warrant, seems reasonable to me.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709201)

Not, if nobody heard it, or has prooves that you did it. Obviously, police doesnt have it.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709621)

Why is the parent currently moderated troll?
It should be obvious to any half-wit that you cannot unsay a public statement when someone calls you on it. You are responsible for your own public utterances. If you run around making death threats or inciting riots, then eventually someone will take you seriously and the rest of us will hold you to account. It's a quaint concept called modern civilization, it's not always logical or fair, and its stubborn rules have been famously compared to an ass. However it does provide us with a superior quality and longer length of life compared to all known alternatives.

Does any of this mean the parent post or I agree/disagree with this particular ruling? - Hell no, the parent didn't state their opinon one way or the other, and I barely skimmed the summary, let alone checked it's claims.

Now, just for fun of being a trollish devils advocate let's change the wording of the GP's quote, we can sensationalise it a bit and correct the claim to accurately reflect the situation that is described in TFSummary...Imagine putting a burning cross on your front lawn. A month later you hose it down and bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean you can refuse a court order to hand it over?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709721)

Imagine putting a sign on your front lawn. A month later you bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean the police no longer need a warrant? If twitter loses this appeal, the answer to that question will be no. It is essentially saying anything made public can never be made private. Now, if someone took pictures of that sign on your lawn, that's another matter. So a snapshot of a public site would be fair game. So much so, I wonder if the police monitor tweets and store potentially interesting ones?

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

Yes, but if you didn't record me at that time, don't ask me to scream again.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

wmol (124342) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710099)

Imagine putting a sign on your front lawn. A month later you bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean the police no longer need a warrant? If twitter loses this appeal, the answer to that question will be no. It is essentially saying anything made public can never be made private. Now, if someone took pictures of that sign on your lawn, that's another matter. So a snapshot of a public site would be fair game. So much so, I wonder if the police monitor tweets and store potentially interesting ones?

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

Yes, but if you didn't record me at that time, don't ask me to scream again.

This is exactly the issue at hand in my opinion. Tweets are public, and anyone is welcome to save/store them at the time that they are available. However, if they did not, then it is a missed opportunity on their part. I don't see how anyone can be required to make them public again.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

moj0joj0 (1119977) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711193)

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

It is doubtful that that phrase, without context, will be used against you. Words on their own have no standing without context. Now, if you pull a knife, wave it menacingly at an individual and scream "I'm going to kill you!", now you are talking about something that will get you in trouble. People scream, whisper, shout, say and text 'I'm going to kill you' all day every day with no repercussion and there shouldn't be any repercussion, because that phrase is a well known idiom.

While it is true that you can't pull words back from the past, you can, figuratively, unsay most comments. How successful the unsaying is debatable and dependent upon the comment, to whom it was said and in what context you made the comment you wish to retract.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711729)

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

No, but you don't have to turn over recording of it. Suppose Twitter didn't archive all the tweets - then what? In fact, why DOES twitter archive all tweets?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40713051)

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

I'm not the same AC (just noting).

The problem with your argument is that you need a witness, documentation or some other proof to use to someone's statement against them.

If that requires a search---as in this case, it obviously does, or there would be no need to compel Twitter to produce the information--then the Fourth Amendment (specifically Katz vs. United States) insists that you have a warrant.

Otherwise, prosecutors can issue subpoenas with probable cause any time they feel like it.

NYCL, where are you?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40713097)

You can't unsay what you have said. If you scream at someone "I'm gonna kill you", it will be used against you.

Crap. . . I meant WITHOUT probable case.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40715389)

But you can destroy a sign. Or store it in the basement. Is a twitter post more like physically saying something, or making a sign?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (2)

hey_popey (1285712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708551)

So much so, I wonder if the police monitor tweets and store potentially interesting ones?

Why wonder? Just assume that some agency, somewhere, does. Maybe not the police, but with all the agencies that could be interested in this, it's likely that this happens!

Like the Library of Congress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708589)

The Library of Congress is supposedly archiving all tweets [loc.gov] . Curious what happens to these public-then-private tweets.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708651)

My take on it, which I may revise upon further consideration... To view the sign itself requires a warrant-- however, all previously recorded imagings of the sign are fair game. This is under the assumption that it was originally intended to be public, and not, say, simply in transit or the like.

In the context of Twitter... I suppose this would mean I have no objection, though the inability to remove something from the public sphere is a concerning thought.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

kqs (1038910) | more than 2 years ago | (#40718507)

But the issue is not viewing the content; the issue is forcing someone else (Twitter) to give you their copy without a warrant. To continue the analogy, this is letting the police look through your neighbor's photos to find all of the ones they took of your front yard, when your neighbor doesn't want to.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708687)

If I bring a weapon they think was used in a crime, inside, don't they still have to get a warrant?

Why should this be any different?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708755)

If I bring a weapon they think was used in a crime, inside, don't they still have to get a warrant?

Why should this be any different?

That brings the interesting possibility by analogy that if a twitter itself was an offence (hate speech, grooming, etc) it would need a warrant but if it was "just a sign", e.g. used to show that X had communicated with Y, then one wouldn't be needed!

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708893)

After reading your comment, I pondered about its true meaning for a brief moment. Then, all of a sudden, a fart shot out of my own asshole. And here I am.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708889)

> Imagine putting a sign on your front lawn. A month later you bring it inside your house. Since the sign was public, does that mean the police no longer need a warrant?

If you put it on someone else's lawn... and that someone else states that anything put on their lawn becomes their property... and you agreed to this... then you take the sign back, and they let you... but there is a law requiring that they keep a copy of all such signs and give then to police when asked...

I agree with your argument, but you are missing the legal basis for which he lost. It wasnt his lawn, nor his sign anymore because of that. There should be no law requiring them to keep copies of all signs though...

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711773)

...but there is a law requiring that they keep a copy of all such signs and give then to police when asked...

I was with you up until that point. This whole case is about whether or not the law actually requires that. Twitter is arguing that they do not have that responsibility under the law.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708957)

..why the need for court order in the first place since the court argues that they're _public_ in the first place.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

sosume (680416) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709039)

Say you make a statement in public which could get you arrested for disorderly conduct. I happened to make a movie of you making that statement on my cell phone. I have shown the movie in public, but after you complained I stopped showing it.
Now the police suddenly wants to prosecute you for disorderly conduct, but they have no evidence. Should they be allowed to force me to hand over my cell phone?

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710355)

the "argument" that twitter's sphere is public is because anyone who wants to can look at your tweets. Thus anything said on Twitter's service is in the public. the City of NYC is trying to argue that saying something on twitter is like saying something on a soap box on a street corner. Where as Twitter is saying "Uh no it's like we're AT&T and they're sending Text Messages between each other. After all our bases was being a Mass Texting service."

If what the defendant said on twitter is public then they could just read it into the record. Unless it was deleted or sent as a Direct Message. In which in my opinion would require them to sopena twitter's logs

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712269)

Imagine a creepy man is looking into my bedroom window. I close my blinds. What has been publicly viewable is now no longer.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712401)

In this case, only the contents of the message were public. His identity itself was not. So the court has clearly made a mistake in reasoning here.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712915)

Yeah, the judge's argument is incoherent and without merit.

If it was publicly available, there would be no need for a subpoena, let alone a warrant. They could just print it out.

Re:Can the Public Become Private? (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716383)

This isn't about a search warrant. At least not at this stage. In your case, it is like the cop showed up and said, we want a copy (or picture) of the sign you had in your front yard.
A subpeona is involved. Not quite a search warrant, but still a court document.
Also in your particular case, if there was evidence that the sign existed, and that you now had it in your house, it is very likely they could get a search warrant for it.

What is going on? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708561)

All of this for disorderly conduct? You have to be kidding me. There has to be some political motivation in these prosecutions. Disorderly conduct has to be the least severe of all criminal offenses. I can't imagine any DA wanting to waste a court's time trying to get subpoenas for it.

Re:What is going on? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708773)

All of this for disorderly conduct? You have to be kidding me. There has to be some political motivation in these prosecutions. Disorderly conduct has to be the least severe of all criminal offenses. I can't imagine any DA wanting to waste a court's time trying to get subpoenas for it.

Just wait for the sentences. What's the betting that protesters get way higher average sentences than the guy who has had too much to drink and is causing a nuisance in a public place.

Re:What is going on? (-1, Offtopic)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709175)

What's the betting that protesters get way higher average sentences than the guy who has had too much to drink and is causing a nuisance in a public place.

Given the range of criminal behavior [nationalreview.com] that the "Occupy" protesters have been involved with the chances are pretty high.

Re:What is going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709189)

Some protesters doing that is not a reason to blame all of them or be harsher on all of them.

Re:What is going on? (0)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709215)

Some protesters doing that is not a reason to blame all of them or be harsher on all of them.

No, but the protesters that were doing it don't deserver lighter sentences because they were protesters either.

Re:What is going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709355)

Fuck off, troll.

Re:What is going on? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709967)

I'm not trolling, I'm completely serious. . . as are some of the criminal charges.

Re:What is going on? (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713645)

Who is claiming they deserve lighter sentences?

Re:What is going on? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710091)

My goodness . . . I thought dissent was the highest civic duty, but it looks like "Occupy" partisans don't tolerate dissent. Will wonders ever cease?

But, here again is the link: Occupy Wall Street Blotter [nationalreview.com]

Re:What is going on? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713289)

To be honest, I don't give a shit about your conservative talking points. I won't give a shit until after the crimes committed in the banking sector are prosecuted, and even then, I might not give a shit about such low level crimes.

Only a complete douchebag would care more about a few low level disorderly conduct crimes than bringing those who engineered the collapse of our economy to justice.

Re:What is going on? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710365)

Given the range of criminal behavior that the banking industry has been involved in, you should be very concerned about the rule of law in this country when protesters are arrested and bankers aren't.

Re:What is going on? (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713627)

So because other protesters where doing worse things they have grounds to punish minor offenses more harshly?

Re:What is going on? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710445)

Dissent is the most severe of all offenses.

Re:What is going on? (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40717029)

Be that as it may, this is actually a pretty important case from an online privacy standpoint. If I send an IM to a few dozen friends, is it private? Is it public? If I deleted everything I uploaded to Facebook when I decided they were a crappy service 5 years ago, but FB still has a copy, can law enforcement get at it? These are questions that will need to be answered at some point.

In that respect, it's actually a good thing it's only for a disorderly conduct charge. That way the judge/jury ruling on this will consider its consequences for the smallest of infractions. If it had been for first degree murder, the seriousness of the crime may have made the judge/jury overreach in the interest of seeking justice.

Wayback Machine? (2)

Pichu0102 (916292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708745)

Have they tried looking into the Wayback Machine to see if it's holding the tweets? It'd hard to imagine that they're not archived somewhere from when they were public. The only question is if they'd be admissible as evidence from a source like Wayback instead of the direct site itself.

Re:Wayback Machine? (2)

silentcoder (1241496) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708823)

>The only question is if they'd be admissible as evidence from a source like Wayback instead of the direct site itself.

I don't see a question there, you can never actually VIEW an original website unless you physically at the server looking at the source files. Any browser creates a copy (downloading the page) and displays that copy. All web pages are already indirectly viewed.

So either ALL web-based content is hearsay evidence (which is clearly NOT the current position of the courts) or archives should be admissible as evidence.

Re:Wayback Machine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709265)

So either ALL web-based content is hearsay evidence (which is clearly NOT the current position of the courts) or archives should be admissible as evidence.

There's a difference between the copy produced from the original website and one created from an archive held by a third party.

Not so public (4, Insightful)

geniusj (140174) | more than 2 years ago | (#40708855)

The comment may be public, but clearly his identity isn't, or they'd know it.

Re:Not so public (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709227)

Or maybe they do know it, but just need evidence that will stand up in court.

Re:Not so public (4, Informative)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709593)

His identity is Malcolm Harris, apparently. That's not the problem. It seems they want to use tweets that he made and later deleted as evidence against him, but those tweets don't exist anymore, which is why they're pressuring Twitter to provide them again.

Re:Not so public (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713617)

> which is why they're pressuring Twitter to provide them again.

And if they have a legitimate interest, they should have no trouble getting a warrant. I think this is quite a simple case...

Twitter should be (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40708949)

Commended for taking this stance. We should loudly complain when companies like Google and Facebook spit on our data rights but similarly warmly thank the companies that try to protect them. So, thanks Twitter, still prefer to use Statusnet on my own server but at least you're trying or your cunning marketing is working on me.
On a legal note, could it be argued that the user posts messages with a degree of privacy (albeit small) by the understanding they can retract tweets?

Re:Twitter should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709269)

If someone stands on a soap box in public making a speech, and someone records it, could the police demand without a search warrant that someone to give up their recording because that speaker made it in public?

You know, it's only a matter of time before something like archive.org does something to record every, single, thing, on Twitter. What then?

Re:Twitter should be (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709451)

No. They can ask nicely that the citizen turn in his recording. But they can't demand anything. Except a search warrant from a judge.

Re:Twitter should be (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716645)

You could be given a subpeona to show up in court as a witness.

Re:Twitter should be (1)

Jesrad (716567) | more than 2 years ago | (#40709407)

Damn right they should be commended for fighting to make privacy a bit more valuable. If they win I can then trade that privacy for slightly more valuable services to Facebook, Google, etc...

HAPPY RAMADAN, OBAMMY! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40709647)

Allah ackbar! *beats wife*

mod dFown (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710551)

Duh-Have the lawyer download the "public comments" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711763)

If it really is public, why doesn't the lawyer download these messages himself? Duh. If they want an "expert" to do it, I'm available for US$2000/hr.

Seems that "public info" should mean "get it yourself" OR twitter can charge whatever fees they like to provide it - outragous fees would be a good idea.

If the data isn't available anymore, than it isn't "public" is it?

Compelled to Research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40715007)

Usually there is some protection from being required to do research to provide information to a court. Having an item at hand and knowing that you have it at hand is one thing. Requiring a party to dig into databases and search for older messages costs money and may not be within the power of the courts without providing compensation for the work done. When any officer is under oath for such a petty communication it would be true normally to reply that he does not know if the material exists. Imagine ordering someone to go through all communications on Twitter and determine if a certain individual sent a message. One never knows how many identities one might use on that kind of social site and many people use net cafes or libraries or their friends computers. To testify that one has diligently researched for messages is a bit absurd in a way as it simply really can not be properly done.

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