US appeals court rules prosecutors can demand Twitter account information

Discussion in 'Wikileaks' started by The Wrong Guy, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    US appeals court rules on WikiLeaks investigation

    The Associated Press

    RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that prosecutors can demand Twitter account information of certain users in their criminal probe into the disclosure of classified documents on WikiLeaks.

    The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also said the government's reasons as to why it is seeking the information can remain sealed.

    The case involves three Twitter account holders with some connection to the secret-busting WikiLeaks website. They had argued that forcing Twitter to cooperate with the investigation by turning over data amounts to an invasion of privacy and has a chilling effect on the free speech rights of Twitter users.

    The federal panel in Richmond rejected their appeal and affirmed a magistrate's court order that Twitter must turn over limited account information to prosecutors. The court said it weighed the right of public access against the need to keep an investigation secret. The appeals court agreed with the magistrate that the government's interest in keeping the documents secret outweigh the right to public access.

    Prosecutors have said federal law specifically allows them to seek account information as a routine investigative tool. Specifically, the Stored Communications Act allows them to obtain certain electronic data without a search warrant or a demonstration of probable cause. The government must only show that it has a reasonable belief that the records it seeks are relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.

    "This is essentially a reasonable suspicion standard," the court wrote.

    Under the Stored Communications Act, the government can also keep sealed documents related to their investigation from the subscribers. The appeals panel concluded the subscribers had no First Amendment right to access the documents. Prosecutors submitted their rationale for seeking the Twitter information to U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan but it was kept secret and sealed also.

    The court wrote that the "government's interests in maintaining secrecy of its investigation, preventing potential subjects from being tipped off, or altering behavior to thwart the government's ongoing investigation, outweighed" the subscribers' claims.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, representing the Twitter users, said the government can use those IP addresses as a sort of virtual tracking device to identify a specific computer used by an account holder and with it the user's physical location.

    The appeals panel also allows the government to keep secret any similar orders it sought from other social media sites.

    "This case shows just how easy it is for the government to obtain information about what people are doing on the Internet, and it highlights the need for our electronic privacy laws to catch up with technology," said ACLU attorney Aden Fine. "The government should not be able to get private information like this without getting a warrant and also satisfying the standard required by the First Amendment, and it shouldn't be able to do so in secret except in unusual circumstances".

    The original order issued in December 2010 at prosecutors' request also sought Twitter account information from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning, who faces life in prison if he's convicted of indirectly aiding the enemy by leaking U.S. secrets while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

    Neither Assange nor Manning was a party in the lawsuit challenging the legality of the Twitter order.

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  2. Anonymous Member

    The coverage of this problem is misleading. News articles start with the statement that the US courts have won the right to Twitter records. Sounds reasonable, so reasonable in fact that the defendants hadn't challenged that.

    This obscures the real news- the government came keep secret subpoenas filed in the prosecution of of the Wikileaks supporters.
    In other words government secrecy grows, our civil rights shrink.
  3. Anonymous Member

    Twitter and Skype, to name just two, are private messaging services.
    If they decide to be patriotic from one minute to the next, they can.
    You signed the ToS and agreed to their terms.
    It's not a matter of civil rights, which it would be were the services public.
    The government would want in no matter what.

    If you want to have private conversations, use PGP mail services, Tor, and Jitsi.
  4. Anonymous Member

    Once again this is misdirected.
    This is not about releasing records of conversations. This is about the ability of the government to hide documents used in prosecutions. The defense can't prepare for charges if they can't see the documents the charges are based on.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. The Wrong Guy Member

    This thread was the best place I could find to share this article that was published today:

    Twitter users: A guide to the law - BBC News

    By Brian Wheeler

    People who tweeted photos allegedly of child killer Jon Venables are being charged with contempt of court. It's the latest in a long line of cases that suggest that ordinary social media users need to have a grasp of media law.

    Journalists from traditional media are used to going on courses and reading works like McNae's Essential Law for Journalists. Those regularly covering court may have another level of knowledge. But the final resort is always to the expert advice of a media lawyer.

    Here are some of the categories of law on which social media users in England and Wales are coming unstuck.

    Continued at
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  6. Anonymous Member

  7. Anonymous Member


    The burning of the Library of Alexandria would be as nothing to the Dropping of the Library of Congress.
  8. The Wrong Guy Member

    Twitter Slammed With Class Action Lawsuit Claiming Privacy Violations

    Twitter's direct messages may not be as private as the company claims. The complaint, brought in San Francisco federal court on Monday by Texas resident Wilford Raney, accuses the service of violating users' privacy with its automatic link-shortening and redirecting practices.

    "As soon as a user sends a Direct Message, Twitter intercepts, reads, and, at times, even alters the message," the lawsuit alleges.

    Despite the purported convenience of the hyperlink shortening system that helps to stuff more text into a limited 140-character message, the modification of an URL within a private chat amounts to wiretapping, the lawsuit claims.

    It also provides as an example a link to a New York Times article which, when shared through a private message, is converted with Twitter's link-shortening tool to look something like "http:/," while the recipient still sees a full URL, like ""

    According to the lawsuit, it is deceptive to users — and beneficial for the company — to send Tweeters who click on a modified link to Twitter's analytics servers first before redirecting them to the target website, like the New York Times, which will perceive that their site's traffic is coming from Twitter, which will be able to negotiate better advertising rates. Such interference, the suit claims, violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California privacy law.

    According to privacy lawyers, though, it is unclear whether automated scanning with no humans directly involved can be considered interception. But Google was unable to persuade a judge two years ago to throw out a class action suit over automated searching of its gmail for keywords to enhance custom advertising.

    Continued here:
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