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Sony threatens to sue Twitter over tweets with hacked emails

The studio is demanding that Twitter suspend the account of a user associated with tweets containing screenshots of hacked emails.

Sony Pictures is going after Twitter to kill tweets that contain embarrassing emails obtained in a massive hack.Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Seeking to stem the spread of company secrets, Sony Pictures has threatened to sue Twitter if it does not ban accounts that tweet information allegedly leaked in the studio's massive security breach.

The threat was contained in a letter sent Monday by Sony Pictures general counsel David Boies to Vijaya Gadde, general counsel at Twitter, that demands Twitter's cooperation with suspending Twitter accounts associated with disseminating "stolen information." In his letter, which was seen by CNET and authenticated by Twitter, Boies warns his Twitter counterpart that if "stolen information continues to be disseminated by Twitter in any manner," Sony "will have no choice but to hold Twitter responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by Twitter."

Sony Pictures did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.

As of this writing, the key account Sony takes issue with -- @bikinirobotarmy -- is still accessible, as are tweets that appear to be screenshots of leaked Sony emails.

The letter highlights the lengths Sony's film and TV arm is willing to take to try to contain the fallout from last month's crippling hack of its computer network. The security breach was allegedly perpetrated by a hacking group calling itself Guardians of Peace, which claims to have broken in to Sony computer networks and periodically leaked thousands of financial documents and emails revealing the film studio's inner secrets to file-sharing sites. A handful of movies, including a few Sony has yet to release, have also been leaked.

The ensuing fallout has been a mix of devastation, embarrassment and frustration for both Sony and its partners. Following a series of threats made over the past few weeks, Sony decided last week to cancel the December 25 debut of a comedy about assassinating North Korea's leader. On Friday, the FBI identified North Korea as the culprit based on the type of attacking software used to penetrate Sony Pictures' computer networks.

Boies' language echoes letters he sent to members of the news media earlier this month demanding that they ignore and destroy information already downloaded that was leaked by hackers. Media outlets failing to comply with Sony's demands could be held "responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by you."

While social networks will usually ban accounts deemed to be running afoul of terms of service, they are also known to suspend accounts upon request by organizations such as governments. Over the weekend, a Facebook page calling for support of a Vladimir Putin critic appeared to be blocked. Twitter banned a pair of accounts in April linked to the spread of government corruption allegations in Turkey.

CNET's Ian Sherr contributed to this report.

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