Twitter hands over records in NY Occupy case

Written by Muleskinner Staff

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter on Friday agreed to hand over about three months’ worth of tweets to a judge overseeing the criminal trial of an Occupy Wall Street protester, a case that has become a closely watched fight over how much access law enforcement agencies should have to material posted on social networks.

The social networking site had been threatened with steep fines if it did not comply with Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr.’s order to turn over the records in the case of Malcolm Harris.
“We are disappointed that Twitter is essentially giving up the fight,” Harris’ attorney Martin Stolar said after the court hearing.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Harris’ messages could show whether he was aware of the police orders he’s charged with disregarding during a protest at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Twitter had said the case could put it in the unwanted position of having to take on legal fights that users could otherwise conduct on their own.
Harris’ trial begins in December. He has pleaded not guilty.
His case began as one of hundreds of disorderly conduct prosecutions after an Oct. 1 march in New York that brought the Occupy protest movement its first burst of worldwide attention. Harris was among more than 700 people arrested when protesters tried to cross the bridge, many on the roadway.
Police said demonstrators ignored warnings to stay on a pedestrian path. Harris, an editor for an online culture magazine, and others say they thought they had police permission to go on the roadway.
Prosecutors want Harris’ tweets and user information from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31 that were taken down from the public site. They said the information contradicts Harris’ claim that he thought police were allowing the protesters onto the roadway. They said he couldn’t claim his privacy rights should shield messages he sent publicly.
Harris said Friday that he did not delete any incriminating tweets. Asked what the tweets might contain, he said, “Three and a half months, a lot of nonsense.”
The social network company stepped in after the judge turned down Harris’ own request earlier this year to block prosecutors from subpoenaing the information from Twitter Inc. Harris had argued that seeking the accompanying user information violated his privacy and free association rights. The data could give prosecutors a picture of his followers, their interactions through replies and retweets, and his location at various points, Stolar said.
Twitter stepped in after the judge turned down Harris’ request.
Company lawyers argued that Harris had every right to fight the subpoena. Its user agreements say users own content they post and can challenge demands for their records. The company argued in a court filing that it would be “a new and overwhelming burden” for Twitter to have to champion such causes for them.
The judge sided with the social network company on one point: It won’t turn over some of the tweets because a federal law requires a court-approved search warrant, not just a subpoena issued by prosecutors, for stored electronic communications that are less than 180 days old.
Sciarrino said he would review all the material he ordered turned over and would provide “relevant portions” to prosecutors.