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Twitter fights to protect user's info in #Occupy case

Prosecutors are trying to gain access to tweets written by Malcolm Harris around the time of the Brooklyn Bridge showdown, but Twitter says the data is Harris’ property.

Protesters sit with arms linked on New York's Brooklyn Bridge before police began making arrests during a march by Occupy Wall Street on 1 October 2011
Protesters sit with arms linked on New York's Brooklyn Bridge before police began making arrests during a march by Occupy Wall Street on 1 October 2011
Image: AP Photo/Stephanie Keith, File

TWITTER HAS ASKED a judge in New York to block a subpoena which would force it to hand over the data of one of its users.

Malcolm Harris was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge last October, and prosecutors have attempted to gain access to three months worth of his tweets and data without a warrant according to Forbes. Harris had already mounted his own case against the subpoena but had failed when a judge ruled that he did not own the tweets, Twitter did.

Harris is an activist and a writer who has since deleted tweets he posted around the time of his arrest. The Washington Post reports that the Manhattan District Attorney wants to establish whether Harris knew that demonstrators had been ordered not to march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

More than 700 people were arrested after they swarmed the bridge in October 2011, blocking traffic for several hours.

Twitter has now filed a motion stating that users do own their own content and the company’s terms of service state that users “retain [their] rights to and content [they] submit, post or display on or through” Twitter. The motion also identifies that the Stored Communications Act “expressly permits users to challenge demands for their account records”.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that Twitter’s refusal to hand over Harris’ details is a “big deal”. Forbes reports that Twitter had previously informed Harris that his data had been subpoenaed, while in January 2011 the company told Wikileaks associates that their data was also being sought. Twitter was later ordered to hand over the information.

More than 700 protesters arrested in Brooklyn Bridge showdown>

Read more about Occupy Wall Street>

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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