eDiscovery Case Law: Twitter Seeks to Succeed Where Defendant Failed
May 11, 2012
Yesterday, we discussed a case where the court denied a criminal defendant’s attempt to quash a subpoena of his Twitter account information. Now it’s Twitter’s turn to file a motion to quash the court’s order. Filed this past Monday (May 7), the motion seeks to quash the order based on the grounds that the order imposes an undue burden on Twitter for three reasons including the reason that it forces them to “violate federal law”.
In People v. Harris, No. 2011NY080152 (N.Y. Crim. Ct.), the social network filed to quash a subpoena that ordered it to turn over “any and all user information” for Twitter-user Malcolm Harris between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31, 2011.
Twitter’s counsel argued that the order violates the Fourth Amendment, which guards citizens against unreasonable search and seizures, and would force the company to violate federal law.
Twitter also stated that the order does not comply with the Uniform Act, a stance the information network conveyed to Assistant District Attorney Lee Langston in March. “Pursuant to the Uniform Act, a criminal litigant cannot compel an appearance by, or production of documents from, a California resident without presenting the appropriate certification to the California court, scheduling a hearing and obtaining a California subpoena for production,” Twitter’s legal team said in the email response.
In its motion, the company even argued that, based on Twitter’s terms of service around content ownership (Twitter users own their content), Harris has legal standing to challenge the original subpoena; the court previously ruled that he did not.
“This is a big deal. Law enforcement agencies — both the federal government and state and city entities — are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to obtain information about what people are doing on the Internet,” ACLU senior staff attorney Aden Fine said in a statement.
“[The Internet] is, in some ways, the ultimate embodiment of the First Amendment. But one potential problem for free speech on the Internet is that, for almost all of us, we need to rely on Internet companies. And while the government is bound by the First Amendment, the First Amendment may not always prevent private companies from restricting our free speech rights,” Fine said. “That is why it is so important that the public — and other companies — know when a company actually stands up for its users’ rights. Twitter did so here, and Twitter should be applauded for that.”
So, what do you think? Does Twitter make some valid arguments and will they succeed where the defendant failed? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Case Summary Source: VentureBeat.
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