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US Judge Orders Twitter To Give Up WikiLeaks Data 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the they-get-to-keep-their-clothes-for-now dept.
cultiv8 writes "A US judge Friday ordered Twitter to hand over the data of three users in contact with the activist site WikiLeaks. 'US Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan rejected arguments raised by the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a host of private attorneys representing the Twitter account holders, who had asserted that their privacy was protected by federal law, the First Amendment, and the Fourth Amendment. Buchanan rejected each of the arguments in quick succession, saying that there was no First Amendment issue because activists "have already made their Twitter posts and associations publicly available." The account holders have "no Fourth Amendment privacy interest in their IP addresses," she said, and federal privacy law did not apply because prosecutors were not seeking contents of the communications.'"
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US Judge Orders Twitter To Give Up WikiLeaks Data

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  • by magarity (164372) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @10:46AM (#35463672)

    oh boy. one great display of freedom after another - freedom to commit war crimes and hide it from public that is. and it is not treason to commit war crimes behind the backs of the elected people - but to let people know it - or, even more, people TO know it.

    It's a long standing precedent that one has the freedom to publish anything first and then face punishment after the fact. Did you think this was something new? Why do so many people think freedom of the press means freedom from consequences of publishing something proscribed?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:59AM (#35464142)

    I have to respond to the Guantanamo Bay issue, since it pops up so often. In 2009 and again in 2011, congress passed laws blocking the transfer of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. They were part of omnibus spending bills, so refusing to sign them would have been a disaster. I don't know what you expected Obama to do, short of declaring himself emperor and ruling by decree.

    It's ironic that one of your complaints is about the president violating the constitution, while the other is about him not violating the constitution to get his way. Funny how our views change depending on whether we oppose or support an issue.

    And which party controlled the Presidency and BOTH the House and Senate in 2009?

    It wouldn't be the Democrats? The ones who continually lambasted Bush over Gitmo, the Patriot Act, wiretaps?

    Oh, wait. It WAS them, wasn't it?

  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Saturday March 12, 2011 @12:51PM (#35464532) Journal

    One of the things that seems to be happening here is that USA Federal case law is beginning to define the difference between privacy, with its constitutional protections, and anonymity, which for all practical purposes only came into existence with the rise of the Internet. That is, before the Internet, there really was no effective way to publish anything to a large audience without leaving a trail that would expose the author's identity to anyone who cared to do the leg work.

    I'm sorry, but that is a total falsehood. Amonymous publishing was part and parcel of political movements for centuries. Pamphleteers [wikipedia.org] didn't always sign their names, as noted here [wikipedia.org]

    One other feature of 18th C. pamphleteering deserves mention, one that may have a lot of relevance in other countries today where the Web is used for purposes of political insurrection. That is, the pamphlet was preferred by the rebels because it did not provide any target for retaliation by the crown. It was a guerilla form of publishing in which an individual or small revolutionary group could make a point, then disappear. This was in contrast to the more established printers. Typically, the printer owned his shop, his press, his tools and all his stock. If he antagonized the Crown, they knew just where to find him, and the king's agents could easily shut him down. The hit-and-run, anonymous pamphleteer, on the other hand, was almost impossible to find and, thus, to stop.

    Anonymous pamphleteering was part of the American Revolution. The same way that samizdat was part of the fall of Soviet Russia.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 12, 2011 @12:51PM (#35464534)

    >>>Its like McCarthyism all over again.

    No it's like Woodrow Wilson and FDR all over again. McCarthy was an ass but he didn't jail anybody.

    Ehm Wikipedia on McCarthyism [wikipedia.org]: It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs.

    McCarthyism includes more than just McCarthy's investigations.

  • Re:Chilling effect (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheoMurpse (729043) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @01:01PM (#35464604) Homepage

    As a lawyer, I wish articles like this would link the decision at the very beginning or the very end of the article always. Here [eff.org], no thanks to the /. summary!

    Decisions relying on anti-"chilling effect" policy reasons for the conclusion tend to be at the appellate level, not the district level, and especially not at the magistrate level. Magistrates are appointed for a short number of years and are not Article III judges. Doing what the Article III judges (district, circuit, SCOTUS) say is of the utmost importance to them since Magistrates are basically merely auxiliaries or para-judges. So, no, magistrate judges will almost never rely on public policy concerns such as "chilling effects" to decide an issue. This is my experience as someone who used to work directly for a federal magistrate judge doing research for him.

    Now, I humbly offer my analysis of the decision (apologies for it not being perfect writing, but it's Saturday, and the goal is just to shed a little light on what actually is going on in the decision):

    Facts

    1. Gov't requests Twitter records that do not include the contents of posts. Namely, it requests ID, contact info, registration information, records of connection time, etc.
    2. Court orders Twitter to turn over info
    3. Twitter users argue to "get rid of" ("vacate") the order to disclose this info.

    Issues

    1. Does the Stored Communications Act give power to Twitter users to try and get order vacated (i.e., do Twitter users have "standing" under the SCA)
    2. was the order properly issued
    3. does the order violate 1st Amendment
    4. does order violate 4th Amendment
    5. One user is Icelandic and a gov't official, so does "international comity" require vacation of the order

    Standing under SCA
    No, they dont. SCA gives standing only if contents of communications are requested. The distinction between contents and records (non-content data such as ID, access time, etc.) is explicitly made in the law itself, so this isn't just semantics. Government wins issue 1.

    Proper issuance of order
    Users argue the government did not follow proper procedure to get the order. Users argue info requested is not relevant and material to investigation. Court says it is.

    First Amendment
    Users argue it creates a chilling effect on free speech by creating a "map of association." Court says that the association between these users was made publicly by the users themselves already, so no chilling effect in this instance can be had. This is where the whole "publicly policy" issue would come into play in an appellate court, but not in an Article I magistrate court. While it could have a chilling effect on other associations (which I personally doubt, as, IIRC from my use on Twitter, everyone's Twitter friend list is publicly accessible anyway), it's not for the magistrate court to decide. That would be for the Circuit or Supreme Courts.

    Fourth Amendment
    Users argue it's a warrantless search, and the requested IP addresses are "intensely revealing" as to location, including location within a home and movements within. OK, wtf is this bullcrap? Turning over an IP address will tell the police which room in a house you were posting in? That sounds really specious.

    In any case, court enters into a "reasonableness" analysis as is de rigueur with Fourth Amendment issues--does the act infringe on expectation of privacy society consideres reasonable? There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in data voluntarily turned over to third parties. This may not be true if the EULA specifies that data will be kept private, but the court doesn't address this issue because the argument was never made. Instead, the court says: Look, you gave Twitter your IP address, so you can't reasonably expect it to be kept secret from police. Other courts have apparently said si

  • by jaypifer (64463) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @01:28PM (#35464800)

    I don't know what you expected Obama to do, short of declaring himself emperor and ruling by decree.

    2007 Obama:

    "While we're at it," he said, "we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. ... We're going to lead by example not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."

    I don't know...expect him to follow through on what he was elected upon? What was his plan then? In 2009 in his inaugural speech he reaffirmed that United States does not have "to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals." In January, he signed an executive order to close it. Was there a plan in 2009? Incidentally, in 2009 there was a lot of talk about prosecuting Bush for these very acts that are perpetuated today.

    Congress didn't create Gitmo, the President did. The new one doesn't have to be an emperor to close it.

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