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Twitter Forced to Hand Over Deleted User Posts

Twitter Forced to Hand Over Deleted User Posts

 

Social media sites have long been considered liabilities for individuals. For years, employers and investigators have used Twitter and Facebook posts to uncover personal histories. This past week, State Supreme Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. ruled that Twitter must hand over deleted posts from user Malcolm Harris in connection with disorderly conduct charges.

Harris was part of an Occupy Wall Street march over the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 that involved hundreds of disorderly conduct prosecutions. The tension on the bridge took place when law enforcement officials claimed that the over 700 marchers refused to stay on the sidewalk after multiple demands that the group remain off of the street.

Harris, and others charged with disorderly conduct on this occasion, argue that they were unaware of the police mandate to stay on the sidewalk of the bridge and that some NYPD officers actually led the protesters out onto the street. As protesters continued to walk in the street, hundreds were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

The main disagreement between law enforcement and the marchers has now turned into a larger-than-life dispute about privacy and the place of social media in resolving legal cases. If outdated posts on Twitter and other social media sites have been deleted, are they still part of the public record?

Judge Sciarrino says yes. The Washington Post quotes the judge: “What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you.” This viewpoint aligns with the judge’s original ruling in March which defended the subpoena for the Twitter posts.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Twitter both took up the fight on behalf of Malcolm Harris. Prosecutors argue that the Twitter posts they want from Harris, dating from September 15 to December 30, could establish whether marchers were aware of the legal infraction of remaining on the street.

Conversely, Twitter argues that users sign an agreement when they use the service that gives them ownership of the material they post and they can, therefore, challenge demands for their records. The company updated its terms of use in May to make absolutely clear that users own the content they create.

While Judge Sciarrino sided with prosecutors and argued that posting on Twitter was akin to shouting out a window or marching on the street, he also ruled that posts older that 180 days on the day of the decision required a search warrant. This decision means that prosecutors must now apply for a search warrant to obtain the deleted Twitter posts they want.

Although the case itself revolves around a relatively minor incident on the Brooklyn Bridge, the legal implications of this argument cannot be overestimated. The decisions in this case could seriously endanger user privacy on the internet. Many Twitter and Facebook users might want to heed the warning of the Inquisitr, “I have said it a million times, you need to watch what you say on social networks because communication never fully disappears.”

 

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33 comments

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5:11AM PDT on Jul 5, 2012

Don't be a Twit! Stop Tweeting your personal business on the Inter-webs, as my wise old cat would say. Use an anonymous account on an untraceable phone. >^,^

11:56PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Gee, isn't there something in the law about self incrimination on the books? I do not do twitter, Facebook etc... Because it can come back and haunt you. George Orwell spelled it all out in "1984" the book should be mandatory reading for everyone. I re-read the book every few years and think back to initial skeptical thinking about how far out I thought the concepts in the book were, boy was I WRONG!

10:44PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

tHAT IS RIDICULOUS....OF COURSE WE KNOW THE ENTIRE WORLD SEES JUST ABOUT ANYONE'S POSTS..BUT THIS WALL STREET PROTEST THING ..... I AM NOT SURE WHERE THIS COUNTRY IS GOING ANYWAY....THE COURTS DISCRIMINATE...THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE MOST USUALLY DONT DEMONSTRATE..THEY KYA USA....WHAT HAPPENED TO ALLLLLLLLLL OF THOSE TRADERS THAT DID WRONG ON WALL STREET...VERY FEW WERE USED AS EXAMPLES..AND MANY BROUGHT DOWN OUR COUNTRY...DO WE SEE THEIR TWITS AND ETC BEING USED...UNLESS THE PERSON IS A KILLER THE COURTS SHOULD QUIT WASTING TAXES......

2:54PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Less and less privacy on social networking sites!

1:57PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

It took a long while, but 1984 is here.

1:01PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Common sense: do NOT say anything on any site that could incriminate you or come back to bit you in the butt! I'm with Christina R!
I don't use Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and drive an older car with no location finding devices. I don't use a cellphone (except one with no contract which I keep charged in case I need to call 911). I leave very businesslike voicemails and take care with emails. I delete cookies and clean the cache on my computer everytime I use it. When I get rid of a computer, I have it destroyed as well as the hard drive. Just good common sense & good basic habits!

12:52PM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Steve R - I see your previous rant on how you were spending your independence day loving your country and doing all those Mom/Apple Pie things was wrong. Seems you are hard at work on this holiday - how much are you getting paid today for all your nutjob posts?

11:24AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

Well - what do you expect?

"Democracy" leads to "Socialism", leads to "Tyranny"!

You didn't know that?

Why do you think the founding fathers included the words "enumerated powers" in the constitution?

Oh - you thought that means "larger numbers of powers".....? It doesn't!

Hey - why isn't someone blaming this on the GOP?

Must be Bush's fault, surely?

10:58AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

hmmm...

10:24AM PDT on Jul 4, 2012

I have no problem with past posts being saved, or even printed. I recall something in the constitution, something about. Freedom of speech.Freedom of the press. And the revocation of the Alien and Sedition act.Last time i new it was not against the law to criticize this government.Thow perhaps now, with the patriot act, maybe it is.As i haven't read it i don't know. And i'm told, nether did our elected officials. Myself.I call for armed revolution against the financial institution/government of this country. When less then 1 to 2 percent of the people rule and own 80 percent of that nations wealth. Something isn't right.Only problem is. Who will raise the first army, who will fire the first shot. And who will be first to die.It will come. History has proven that time and time again. When enough of the people are in abject poverty, and have nothing left to loose. Then and only then will blood be drawn.

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