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Congress

Twitter to NYC: Get A Warrant

May 8, 2012

Lawyers for Twitter filed a motion to quash a subpoena demanding a user's archived tweets in a New York court on Monday.

Prosecutors are seeking the tweets of Malcolm Harris, who was among a group of more than 700 protestors arrested last October for disorderly conduct during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge.

A New York criminal court ruled on April 20 that Harris, who tweeted under the handle @destructuremal, had no standing to challenge a subpoena issued to Twitter to release the tweets and other information.

Twitter's current terms of service informs users that the company will disclose personal information or archived content, "If we believe that it is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation or legal request."

At the same time, the motion filed in New York argues that Harris does, as a matter of law, have standing to challenge the subpoena himself. "To hold otherwise imposes a new and overwhelming burden on Twitter to fight for its users' rights," the attorneys argue.

Twitter counsel Ben Lee said in a statement, "As we said in our brief, 'Twitter's Terms of Service make absolutely clear that its users own their content.' Our filing with the court reaffirms our steadfast commitment to defending those rights for our users."

Twitter's motion hinges in part on what it argues is the court's misunderstanding of Twitter's terms of service, which say that users own content posted to their accounts. That ownership puts the content under the protection of Fourth Amendment.The motion asks the court to require the District Attorney to make the request in the form of a search warrant.

The news was flagged by an American Civil Liberties Union blog.

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