Twitter will appeal order to turn over protestor's messages

Twitter maintains the order doesn't balance the rights of its users versus the interests of law enforcement

Twitter plans to appeal a ruling to turn over the once-public tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protestor charged with disorderly conduct, a case the company says threatens the First Amendment rights of its users.

A New York Criminal Court judge ruled last month that Twitter should turn over the tweets of Malcolm Harris, since his messages were public and are not the same as an email or a private chat, which would require a search warrant.

"At Twitter, we are committed to fighting for our users," wrote Ben Lee, Twitter's legal counsel, on Thursday. "Accordingly, we are appealing this decision which, in our view, doesn't strike the right balance between the rights of our users and the interests of law enforcement."

The social networking site was served with a subpoena on Jan. 26 from prosecutors requesting the information citing section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act, which requires service provider to disclose certain kinds of electronic communications without a warrant.

Twitter told Harris of the subpoena on Jan. 30, and Harris filed a motion to quash it. A judge denied the motion on April 20, ruling that Twitter's privacy policy and terms of service mandate "that the tweets the defendant posted were not his" and that Harris did not have a "proprietary interest."

Twitter has continued to appeal, losing last month and now taking the case to the Appellate Term of the Supreme Court for the First Judicial Department of New York, according to a court document.

Harris is charged along with several hundred others for allegedly marching onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1. Court documents show that prosecutors anticipate Harris' defense will be that police escorted him and others onto the bridge. The government wants Harris tweets -- which are not public any more -- from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, 2011.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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Jeremy Kirk

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