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Courts Rule Against Twitter

by Notorious Spinks on 07.03.2012

Lady justice

When I think about the justice system in America, I cringe.  I don’t trust her and rarely is she blind.

As a result, I wasn’t surprised when Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ordered Twitter to release three months’ worth of tweets belonging to Occupy Wall Street protester, Malcolm Harris.

This case stemmed from an incident on the Brooklyn Bridge that took place on Oct. 1 when hundreds of people were arrested for disorderly conduct.  Harris was one of more than 700 people arrested and according to the Manhattan D.A. office, his Twitter postings could reveal if he was aware of police orders to steer clear of the roadway and walk only on the pedestrian path.

This case has been watched closely by many people including myself because it could create a ricochet effect in regards to more courts using and allowing social media postings as evidence in legal proceedings.

I must applaud Twitter for assisting for the rights of Harris’ tweets.  According to Twitter, the company’s user agreements gives users ownership to their tweets.  However, the judge didn’t see it that way and agreed with the prosecutor that Harris couldn’t claim breach of privacy via interaction in a public forum. Twitter

I love social media and I don’t intentionally or knowingly use it to promote criminal activities.  However, I feel that we should be mindful of what we tweet, Facebook, etc.  These are public forums but I don’t feel that courts should be able to subpoena for previous records.  If you didn’t catch it when I post it and fail to get a screenshot then tough-titty!   If you’re not a terrorist, murderer or rapist then the courts should just SAT down!

You can find more information at Twitter’s blog about their compliance with government requests.

How do you feel about this ruling?  Are you pro-privacy or pro-public forum?

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  • Oh wow. This is news to me.

  • I’m pro-protection of the rest of us, so if something is done that can hurt us, I’m all for taking away the privacy of the perpetrator, and I’m also for it if someone is using social media to rile others up privately, or a variety of other things.

    The right of free speech isn’t the right of privacy protected speech, it means you can SAY what you want without the speech being a crime (though I don’t agree totally with that because hate speech can incite and cause violence). His speech can’t be considered a crime, but it can be possible proof crime.

  • wow, I haven’t heard about it. You seriously have to be VERY careful about what you say and do on the internet

  • I did not hear about this before.

  • This just goes to show you have to be careful what you put out there for the public to see, regardless of your personal opinion or thoughts. Free speech isn’t totally free!

  • I agree with don’t post anything you don’t want people to see!

  • Ugh, I always operate under the assumption that anything I post online can come back to bite me, but still – I agree that the courts are starting to skate a very thin line when they start hijacking people’s social media accounts to be used as evidence again a defendant. Digital postings can be manipulated, faked, and definitely makes me even more leery of what I put out there.

  • Don’t put it out there if you wouldn’t want your mother or priest to see it. 😉

  • If you put it out there in a public forum, you kinda give your rights away so I’m not surprised by the ruling at all.

  • I don’t see how you can expect privacy if you are posting on twitter!

  • I agree with Ashley, if it’s online in a place like twitter it’s there for the world to see and you should not expect to have privacy. Don’t put it out there if you don’t want it seen kwim.

  • If you put it online, it’s available and accessible to everyone… and can be used for anything.

  • I actually agree with the courts. Anything said ONLINE in a public forum is fair game when a crime takes place.

    • Totally agree. And even if it wasn’t technically ‘public’ – a warrant is a warrant. If they can go into your home with one – they certainly have the right to request your online comments with one.

  • While I do see how it could be considered public knowledge because he posted it on a public forum, I don’t like the idea that they can just demand a full record of everything we have ever posted. Perhaps he only meant his own followers to see the information and for it not to be public.

  • That’s why so many people protect their reputation online viciously. Anything you say publicly will be able to be used against you. 🙁

  • I’ve never heard about this. What a crazy case.

  • Wow, how crazy is this. Thanks for sharing because this is the first that I’ve heard of this case.

  • I hadn’t heard about this. Wow.

  • I had no idea of this case. I do believe if you put it out there is out there for others to read including the courts.

  • Eh, not sure how I feel about this one. I guess if you post it on a public space, then it’s public.

  • I think when you put something online it’s public and you just never know where it will go.

  • If you tweet something publicly, then you shouldn’t be dismayed when the courts use your own tweets against you. JM2C

  • For me, I wouldn’t Tweet something I wouldn’t expect to be public so I don’t really know how I feel about this ruling.

  • I never tweet anything I wouldn’t put on a billboard – legal or not, once it’s tweeted it’s out there and you have no control over it.

  • If you Twitter, you shouldn’t expect your Tweet to be private.

  • I love it, when your online things can resurface so don’t be so stupid 🙂 I’m just sayin.

  • I believe in the right to privacy, but anything said or done online in a public forum should and is public property. People need to be VERY careful when they say things on the internet.

  • I’m pro-privacy, but I honestly believe that people should be careful about what they say online. It could haunt you years later. 🙁

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