Twitter hands over Occupy protester's tweets

The company surrendered the data to Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino, but the tweets will be sealed pending an appeal.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Twitter caved to a court order and handed over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester rather than face a stiff fine.

Twitter reportedly surrendered to Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino tweets sent out last year by protester Malcolm Harris. Twitter had long resisted a prosecution subpoena demanding the data.

Reuters was first to report on the news.

Harris was arrested during an October Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge. He argues that the protesters were led to the bridge by police, so they could be arrested on charges of obstructing traffic. Prosecutors want to use the tweets, which have been removed from his Twitter account, to discount his argument.

Twitter had until today to hand over Harris' tweets. Earlier this week, Judge Sciarrino said that if Twitter didn't surrender the tweets and all user information related to Harris' account, it would be forced to deliver to him its financial statements for the last two quarters. He would have then determined a suitable fine based on that financial data.

For its part, Twitter has argued that the subpoena violated its terms of service and that the company is committed to "defending those rights for our users." The company was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other civil liberties organizations, in fighting the subpoena.

Harris' tweets will remain sealed until an appeal can be heard.

CNET has obtained a copy of the statement made today before Judge Sciarrino by Twitter's attorney Terryl Brown of Harris Beach, PLLC. In it, Brown confirms that the company would hand over the documents in a sealed envelope. He also requested, before handing them over, that the documents stay sealed until a final resolution on the legality of offering up the tweets could be argued.

This story has been updated throughout the morning.