EFF has teamed up with the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), and Public Citizen and urged a New York City judge to reconsider his decision authorizing a broad subpoena to Twitter. In an amicus brief filed on May 31, 2012, we argued that granting the subpoena seriously threatens the First Amendment and privacy rights of everyone on the Internet.
This case began early in 2012, when the New York City District Attorney's Office requested information about Malcolm Harris, one of the 700 protesters arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in October 2011 in connection with an Occupy Wall Street protest. The prosecutors requested Twitter turn over reams of information, including the content Harris's of tweets, IP addresses from where he accessed Twitter, and any email addresses it had on file.
Harris contested the subpoena, but the court ruled Harris didn't have legal standing to challenge it because the information—including all of his tweets —belonged to Twitter. It allowed the government to get the content of communication—tweets—with simply a subpoena, and not a search warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment and the Stored Communications Act. It gave the keys to location information—IP addresses that could be used to determine where a person is when he logs into Twitter—without a search warrant. Twitter also moved to quash the subpoena. As we say in our brief, individuals have long had the legal ability to challenge government requests to third parties that implicate constitutional rights.
Unfortunately, on June 30, 2012, the judge denied Twitter's challenge to the subpoena. Twitter plans to appeal.