Trending: Praise for Twitter after it stands up for a user’s rights

Twitter, which got flak earlier this year after announcing that it would censor tweets in certain countries when required, is now drawing praise for fighting a court order to turn over information about a user/Occupy Wall Street protester.

In a filing (PDF) Monday in New York, Twitter argued that it should not have to turn over three months’ worth of tweets by Malcolm Harris, who was arrested last year after protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge. Among other things, Twitter says Harris owns the rights to his tweets. A judge ruled late last month that Harris did not have standing to file a motion to quash the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena because Twitter owned the rights to the tweets.

“If the Order stands, Twitter will be put in the untenable position of either providing user communications and account information in response to all subpoenas or attempting to vindicate its users’ rights by moving to quash these subpoenas itself — even though Twitter will often know little or nothing about the underlying facts necessary to support their users’ argument that the subpoenas may be improper,” the company said in its filing. With many Twitter users using the platform in protests and other activity that may later be of interest to governments and courts, it’s clear the company expects the subpoenas to keep coming.

In a blog post Tuesday, the ACLU praised the San Francisco microblogging platform: “If Internet users cannot protect their own constitutional rights, the only hope is that Internet companies do so.  … Twitter did so here, and Twitter should be applauded for that.”

Twitter, which CEO Dick Costolo has called “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” also got kudos when reports early last year showed that the company had successfully fought a gag order that would have prevented it from notifying users connected with whistleblower website WikiLeaks that the U.S. government had subpoenaed their information. (See Sweet for Twitter: Move to overturn WikiLeaks subpoena gag order praised.) However, a judge in November ordered Twitter to turn over those users’ information.

Twitter’s support of free speech was questioned in January, when it announced it would censor tweets on a case-by-case basis when needed to comply with a country’s laws. (See On the censor ship: Twitter policy.) In March, the company also turned over information about a user in connection with a criminal investigation into hacking attacks on Boston police, according to the Boston Globe, although both Twitter and a spokesman for the prosecutors said that information was limited.


Tags: , , , ,


Share this Post