Twitter appeals court ruling to turn over user information

The Manhattan district attorney wants to examine Twitter records in a disorderly conduct case

Twitter has filed an appeal of a New York judge's June decision requiring the company to turn over detailed information about a user tied to the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Twitter on Monday filed the appeal of the June 30 ruling by Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. of the New York City Criminal Court requiring the company to turn over "any and all" user information, including tweets, related to Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris. Harris is being tried for disorderly conduct in connection with an October 2011 march on the Brooklyn Bridge. Sciarrino ruled, on April 20 and June 30, that Harris did not have standing to ask the court to quash the subpoenas of Twitter records by New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

U.S. law allows users of a service an opportunity to quash a subpoena for account records, Twitter said in its appeal.

"Twitter users own their Tweets and should have the right to fight invalid government requests," Twitter's lawyers wrote in the appeal. The subpoena reflects "law enforcement's increased use of information from social media companies in criminal prosecutions," they added.

Twitter will stand with its users in a fight against invalid government requests, wrote Ben Lee, the company's legal counsel, in a Twitter post.

Vance's office, in a May court document, argued that the subpoena sought only public tweets and account information, and Harris could not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy in information he publicly and intentionally broadcast to the world." Twitter also waited three months after the subpoena's return date to file any response, Vance's office argued.

A spokeswoman for Vance declined to comment on Twitter's appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Twitter for appealing the ruling.

U.S. residents "have the right to speak freely on the Internet, safe in the knowledge that the government cannot obtain information about our communications or our private information unless law enforcement ... obtains a warrant showing probable cause," Aden Fine, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, wrote in a blog post. "The DA didn't do that here. Instead, it has tried to avoid these constitutional hurdles by issuing a mere subpoena for Harris's Twitter information."

The information Vance has sought includes private subscriber information, including Harris' IP addresses, Fine wrote. "By denying Twitter's and Harris' challenge, the court held that the government can access this wealth of sensitive personal information without satisfying basic constitutional protections," he wrote. "That isn't right."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place