Jacob Appelbaum

Ruling forces Twitter to release details about Wikileaks associates

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The Justice Department can force Twitter to reveal when and where three current and former WikiLeaks associates sent direct messages to each other, according to a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling issued on Thursday.

The ruling does not, however, give the Justice Department access to the content of the messages or similar information from people who simply followed the Twitter accounts of Seattle coder and activist Jacob Appelbaum, Iceland parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Dutch businessman Rop Gonggrijp. The same holds true the official Twitter account for WikiLeaks, a nonprofit organization that releases sensitive documents and data about governments and big businesses.

“I’m quitting Twitter,” @FotboltiRokkar tweeted in response to news of the ruling.

The Justice Department obtained the records under a federal statute that allows for the release of non-content Internet records without obtaining a search warrant, which requires prosecutors to demonstrate probable cause. While the statute has primarily been used to obtain details on transactions and related information, similar records requests about Wikileaks associates have been made to Google.

“8 USC §2703(d) seems ripe for abuse,” @nite0wl_2600 tweeted in reference to the statute following the ruling.

Appelbaum is the U.S. representative for WikiLeaks, while Jonsdottir and Gonggrijp had a hand in the 2010 release of a classified U.S. Army video that WikiLeaks dubbed “Collateral Murder.” WikiLeaks had argued that the records request violates constitutional rights to free speech and association.

“Remember that from now on, anything any1 #online does can be used in #criminal cases w/o #suspicion #proof,” Jason Phoenix posted on Twitter.

Photo by Threat to Democracy