Twitter challenges court order in Occupy Wall Street case

Tweeters, it looks like Twitter’s got your back when it comes to the Constitution.

In quite a few more than 140 characters, Twitter is saying no way to a court order to give up the account details and communications of one of its users being prosecuted in connection with an Occupy Wall Street protest march last year.

The social media site filed a motion in court “to quash” the order in the subpoena from the New York district attorney for the tweets from @destructuremal, Malcolm Harris’ handle, posted between Sept. 15, 2011, and the end of the year.

The case against Harris is one of 700 born of an Oct. 1 Occupy Wall Street march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Separately, Harris’ lawyer on Monday sought to have the court throw out the district attorney’s request.


Twitter’s motion quotes Section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), stating that a “court issuing an order pursuant to this section, on a motion made promptly by the service provider, may quash or modify such order, if....compliance with such order otherwise would cause an undue burden on such provider.”

Twitter’s explanation of the “undue burden” supports this user’s constitutional right to free speech and due process of law.

The court order had asserted that Harris wouldn’t be able to challenge the district attorney’s subpoena of his account information and communications. Twitter states in its motion that this violates both its own terms of service -- a contract with users -- and the SCA. 

Twitter’s terms of service states that users own their own content -- in other words, it’s not Twitter’s to release.


The company further cites the 4th Amendment, which it holds requires a warrant for such a search.

Aden Fine, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, applauded the move in a blog post: “Indeed, even though Twitter provided notice to the Twitter user in this particular case, and even though he was able to get an attorney to file a motion seeking to quash the subpoena, the court found that the Twitter user did not have legal ‘standing’ to challenge the D.A.’s subpoena.... If Internet users cannot protect their own constitutional rights, the only hope is that Internet companies do so.”

Buried within the legalese of those dense terms that most of us ignore is the foundation of a contract designed to ensure users’ rights, as well as to protect the company.

Twitter has a solid record of fighting hard to protect its users’ data, adhering to the spirit and the letter of that contract all of us Twitter users mostly overlook. 


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