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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Occupy Protesters, Watch What You Tweet

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 8:40 AM

click to enlarge Across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Across the Brooklyn Bridge

A New York judge has ruled that Twitter must release tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester, claiming the information, which highlights the chaotic arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge last year, is -- and should be -- public for the whole world to read.

Malcom Harris, a 22-year-old writer, was one of 700 Occupy protesters arrested for disorderly conduct while marching across the Brooklyn Bridge last October. To prove that police had warned protesters not to enter the bridge, the New York City Police Department released videos which show an officer giving directions with a bullhorn.

Prosecutors later subpoenaed the San Francisco-based Twitter for Harris' tweets from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, 2011 under the handle @destructuremal, claiming Harris' tweets posted while on the Brooklyn Bridge will contradict his intended defense at trial.

While Harris tried to block that subpoena, Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. claimed that the occupy protester had full knowledge that his posted tweets were not private and would live on in the Twitterverse.

"This is yet another example of the city of New York overstepping the boundaries of the law in order to chill the legitimate political expression of critics of government policies," said Martin Stolar, Harris' attorney.

But Judge Sciarrino pointed out that Twitter's notifications clearly warn users that any and all information posted belongs to the social media giant, and it can use that information for any reason.

However, Stolar argues that this is a privacy issue, saying his client's tweets should not be used in a criminal case. He also denied prosecutors claim that the tweets will contradict his client's planned defense. Stolar plans to ask the judge to reconsider his decision. 

"I'm very disappointed with the way the judge deals with my client's privacy interests," Stoler said.

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