eDiscovery Case Law: Twitter to Appeal Decision in People v. Harris
July 27, 2012
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Twitter plans to appeal a court order requiring the company to produce messages posted by Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street activist facing criminal charges. He was one of more than 700 people arrested last October when demonstrators marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.
Back in April, Harris tried to quash a subpoena seeking production of his Tweets and his Twitter account user information in his New York criminal case. That request was rejected, so Twitter then sought to quash the subpoena themselves, claiming that the order to produce the information imposed an “undue burden” on Twitter and even forced it to “violate federal law”.
On June 30, in People v. Harris, 2011NY080152, New York Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. ruled that Twitter must produce tweets and user information of Harris, noting: “If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. There is no proprietary interest in your tweets, which you have now gifted to the world. This is not the same as a private email, a private direct message, a private chat, or any of the other readily available ways to have a private conversation via the internet that now exist…Those private dialogues would require a warrant based on probable cause in order to access the relevant information.”
Judge Sciarrino indicated that his decision was “partially based on Twitter's then terms of service agreement. After the April 20, 2012 decision, Twitter changed its terms and policy effective May 17, 2012. The newly added portion states that: ‘You Retain Your Right To Any Content You Submit, Post Or Display On Or Through The Service.’” So, it would be interesting to see if the same ruling would be applied for “tweets” and other information posted after that date.
“We're appealing the Harris decision,” wrote Benjamin Lee, Twitter's lead litigator. “It doesn't strike the right balance between the rights of users and the interests of law enforcement”.
Martin Stolar, the attorney representing Harris, praised Twitter's decision. "Privacy interests in the information age are a special category which has to be freshly looked at by the courts," he said in a statement. "We are pleased that Twitter sees the far-reaching implications of the ruling against Mr. Harris and against Twitter."
So, what do you think? Will Twitter succeed in its appeal? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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