The New York Post reports that Twitter has been ordered by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino Jr. to hand over possibly incriminating tweets posted by an Occupy Wall Street protestor.
According to reports, Twitter, citing privacy concerns and other issues, fought with the District Attorney's office for months in regards to handing over deleted tweets posted by protestor Malcolm Harris. Twitter even filed an appeal against a subpoena to provide them in a criminal case, but the appeals judges ruled that the defense could not delay the criminal case. Thus Judge Sciarrino told the social network that it had until Friday to cooperate, or face a fine for contempt of court.
"They don’t want to go in contempt," said Martin Stolar, Harris' lawyer.
Harris was reportedly charged with disorderly conduct along with around 700 other protestors accused of blocking the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011. The tweets in question are no longer available online, but prosecutors claim that those specific tweets reveal that Harris knew that police informed the group that they could not walk on the roadway.
The OWS protestors naturally claim otherwise however, stating that the police intentionally corralled them onto the bridge so that they could be arrested for trespassing. Harris claims that he has done nothing wrong and continues to fight the court, yet many of those that were arrested have taken no-jail pleas, reluctant to battle the court system.
Because the judge can't put the "little blue bird in jail" for contempt of court, he said there would be a substantial fine if the tweets weren't in his hands by Friday. As an incentive to get what he needs, the judge also told Twitter's lawyers that the social website must disclose sensitive financial information so that he could determine the exact amount of the fine if Twitter didn't comply.
The court system generally believes that posts published on Twitter are public domain, therefore users have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Typically Twitter complies with orders for account information and messages, but didn't immediately comply in this particular case because, according to sources close to the matter, the prosecutors immediately approached Twitter with threats of criminal contempt charges.
"It was a bit of a slap in the face," according to an unnamed source.