Twitter ordered to turn over Occupy Wall Street protester’s tweets

Despite opposition from Twitter, a New York judge has decided to analyze protester Malcolm Harris' tweets and pass on relevant information to prosecutors.


Kris Holt


Published Jul 2, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 3:02 pm CDT

After a legal battle that has gone on for several months, Twitter has been ordered to hand over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protester to a New York court.

Twitter previously fought against prosecutors’ efforts to obtain three months’ worth of Malcolm Harris’s tweets. However, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. ordered the company to hand over the information Monday.

Harris tried to block an initial subpoena, but Sciarrino ruled in April that “New York courts have yet to specifically address whether a criminal defendant has standing to quash a subpoena issued to a third-party online social networking service seeking to obtain the defendant’s user information and postings.”

The prosecutors are allegedly trying to track the movements of OWS protesters by using location data buried in tweets. They claim that the tweets may show whether Harris knew of police orders he’s been charged with ignoring.

Despite previous reports that prosecutors would not need a subpoena to obtain Harris’s tweets, Sciarrino ruled Monday that prosecutors need a search warrant to get the last day’s worth of tweets they’re seeking due to a federal law timeframe limit.

The judge said he will look over the information provided by Twitter and pass relevant details to prosecutors.

Harris faces up to 15 days in prison for disorderly conduct after being on the Brooklyn Bridge, when a march took place last fall. He was among more than 700 protesters who were arrested. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Twitter said in a statement that it’s disappointed in the ruling and is considering its options, adding that “we continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights.”

Photo by PaulSteinJC

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*First Published: Jul 2, 2012, 3:13 pm CDT