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Author Topic: NYC Subpoenas Twitter for Arrested Demonstrator's Tweets  (Read 1063 times)
40hz
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« on: March 19, 2012, 02:17:46 PM »

Suppose you were involved in a legal protest, and allegedly and pushed the permitted envelope just far enough to get yourself arrested on the usual "nuisance" charges. Do you think that a District Attorney should be allowed to subpoena all data in your Twitter account going back 15 days before the day of your arrest? And also for the next 30 days after?


Because the NYC DA's office does.

Jeff Rae was arrested on October 1, 2011 as part of a police sweep against protestors that were allegedly blocking traffic and otherwise disturbing the peace. Jeff was charged with the following counts:

  • prohibited use of a roadway
  • blocking traffic
  • failure to obey order

As part of  their attempt at building a case against Jeff, the District Attorney's office has issued Twitter a subpoena for the following information and messages from Jeff's account:

  • All public Tweets posted for the period 9/15/2011-10/31/2011
  • The following subscriber information: name; address; records of session times and durations; length of service (including creation date); type of service utilized; telephone or instrument number or any other subscriber number or identity; including any temporarily assigned network address

In short, the DA wants to see everything Jeff posted on Twitter. And also to know exactly who he tweeted to, or received a Twitter message from - and what they said.

And it wants this information for the 15 days leading up to his arrest. And the thirty days following.

Now all of this data is supposedly needed to prosecute him for three misdemeanor charges, all of which Jeff maintains stemmed from an incident that was wildly exaggerated by police who were looking for an excuse to clear an area of people engaged in lawful and peaceful protest activities..

There's a good article about this incident (with links to a copy of the subpoena) over at ReadWriteWeb. Link to it here.

Another protester, Malcolm Harris  received a similar subpoena earlier this year following his arrest at the Occupy Wall Street rally. ReadWriteWeb has a quote from, and a link to, Malcolm's blog over at Reuters that I think clearly shows what the underlying objective is behind these subpoenas:

Quote
When students used Twitter to coordinate protests in Iran in 2009, The U.S. State Department applauded and intervened to keep the service online, but local prosecutors in cooperation with the police have tried to access user records to build cases against Anonymous members and Occupy activists. As far as I or the ACLU know, mine is the first Twitter subpoena related specifically to offline Occupy activities, and though I’m surprised to be singled out, I’m not surprised that officials at different levels can’t make up their minds about Twitter.

The biggest danger that comes from this subpoena isn’t that it’ll help convict me — I don’t think a judge will have any trouble understanding what happened on the bridge — but that it will produce a chilling effect and discourage people from using Twitter while protesting. It’s a win-win for prosecutors: Either they use Twitter archives to build cases against demonstrators, or they scare us away from using the platform.

It's a page from the old Mayor Daley/Chicago style of realpolitik which says: What you don't have the constitutional authority to forbid, or the legal authority to stop, can always be harassed out of existence by official vilification campaigns and some judicious abuse of legal process.

It's a sorry way to do things. And not in keeping with what the United States is supposed to be about.

As Harris remarked later in his blog post:

Quote
Wildly casting prosecutorial nets around the Twittersphere and hoping to bring in something about anything is panicked behavior not fit for a government that represents all its people, including its dissenters. At the very least the federal government can make sure U.S. companies treat dissenters in Boston or Oakland the way it ensures they’re treated in Tehran or Damascus.

Food for thought. ohmy
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 05:12:22 PM by 40hz » Logged

Don't you see? It's turtles all the way down!
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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2012, 08:42:19 PM »

Welcome to the Police States of America.

For your protection, please remove your shoes and any metal objects from your pockets, then step into the machine to be irradiated or off to the side to be groped. If you have any thoughts in your head, please empty them now and resume use of your entertainment device. Remember, your entertainment device may not be used during take-off or landing because they crash hardened and redundant systems. If you have any questions, please resume your regiment of anti-depressants.

Thank you for leaving your thinking to those that actually care about you. You may now return to your cell...

****************

This is sort of off-topic, but... What did you think a police state would look like?


« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 08:51:00 PM by Renegade » Logged

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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker
db90h
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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2012, 06:51:21 AM »

That subpoena is obviously over-broad and if a judge does grant it, if it holds up in court (it probably will ;o), then it is a disgrace. It Twitter does not at least challenge it, then shame on them.

However, they might have legal justification if this individual was believed to have been a leader, or if they are looking for the leader of the protest for further prosecution. Those prior 15 days would be the planning period, under that logic.
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zridling
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 01:12:59 AM »

But this is not important to the corporate powers that be! Please resume talking about Mitt Romney or "Dance Moms." You have rights, but not if you exercise them (online or in public). I hate this country; l honestly do.
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db90h
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 04:07:41 AM »

But this is not important to the corporate powers that be! Please resume talking about Mitt Romney or "Dance Moms." You have rights, but not if you exercise them (online or in public). I hate this country; l honestly do.

Do you want to know the real sad thing? WE are the powers that be. It isn't that they force us to watch Dance Moms, WE (as a majority, not me or you ;p) prefer to watch Dance Moms, or hear the latest word from talking heads. We don't want to hear the truth. We don't want the chaos of being without leadership.

So, as with any change, it starts within. Change yourself, and spread those changes as far and wide as you can. When the members of society themselves have changed, then, and only then, will the capitalist beast produced by society at large be tamed.
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