The Increased Criminalization of Dissent

Jason Wilson (CC)

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

American law enforcement agencies continue to increase their surveillance on an otherwise fairly complacent citizenry, logging an incredible amount of requests for information regarding cell phone and social media use.

Last week, a judge in New York ruled that Twitter must give a court close to three months of information from a user in a pending case involving an Occupy Wall Street protester arrested at a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge in October. In February, a subpoena from the New York City District Attorney’s office demanded the microblogging site, often used by protesters to update their followers on events happening on the street in real time, give up “any and all user information, including email address, as well as any and all tweets posted for the period of 9/15/2011-12/31/2011” from user Malcolm Harris.” Harris (@destructuremal), managing editor for the New Inquiry online magazine was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge with 700 other demonstrators.

The Wall Street Journal reports Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ruled that since tweets are public, privacy protections do not apply. Sciarrino said “If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.” While this is true, privacy advocates have pointed out that such a ruling sets a dangerous precedent. The Electronic Frontier Foundation noted when the original subpoena was issued in February that “the government would be able to learn about who Mr. Harris was communicating with for an extensive period of time not only through Tweets, but through direct messages,” which are private messages between users. In addition, the government could learn even more information about his followers and their interactions with him, as well as his and their location.

Computerworld reports Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Foundation said:

“It’s one thing for the police to overhear a person shout an incriminating statement. We agree there would be no expectation of privacy. But when the police go to a communications service provider and demand that the company turn over records of a customer, that is a very different scenario.”

Aden Fine, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief backing Twitter said that the ruling “continued to fail to grapple with one of the key issues underlying this case: do individuals give up their ability to go to court to try to protect their free speech and privacy rights when they use the Internet?” The answer has to be no.”

Read the full post at Diatribe Media.

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  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    you have the right to remain silent
    that would be awfully decent of you

  • coiled embrace

    When did Scientology take charge?

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