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Bianca Bosker
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Twitter Fights To Protect Malcolm Harris' Tweets From Prosecutors

Posted: 05/08/2012 6:00 pm Updated: 05/08/2012 6:06 pm

Twitter Malcolm Harris

They're his tweets -- and you can't have them.

That's Twitter's message to prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which charged Twitter user Malcolm Harris with disorderly conduct during an Occupy Wall Street protest and secured a court order requiring the social networking site to hand over information about Harris.

In a move applauded by the American Civil Liberties Union as a "big deal," Twitter has filed a motion to block the prosecutors' subpoena on the grounds that Harris, not Twitter, owns the content he shared with the social media service and that accessing it without a search warrant would violate federal law.

Twitter's lawyers also argued that under the Uniform Act, the prosecutors must secure a subpoena in California before requesting documents from a California company.

The subpoena, issued in January, called on Twitter to provide "[a]ny and all user information" related to Harris' Twitter account @destructuremal, including his email address and "any and all tweets" posted during a 10-week period at the end of last year.

Harris tried to quash the subpoena, but prosecutors ruled that he lacked the legal standing to do so because he had no proprietary claim to his tweets, which the district attorney's office likened to bank records.

In the motion filed Monday, Twitter takes issue with prosecutors' claims that Harris does not own his tweets, noting that this "contradicts Twitter’s Terms of Service."

"Twitter’s Terms of Service unequivocally state that its users 'retain [their] rights to any Content [they] submit, post or display on or through' Twitter," Twitter's motion stated.

The company also maintained that its terms of service give all users the right to attempt to quash a court order requesting information about their accounts.

"Our filing with the court reaffirms our steadfast commitment to defending those rights for our users," Twitter wrote in a statement to The Huffington Post.

Harris declined to comment on the case to The Huffington Post.

"Oh sweet, it's public. Twitter motioned to quash my subpoena all on their own, saying that I do retain rights to my content," he tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a post that read, "I'm thinking this bodes well for my request currently in to Twitter PR to borrow one of their giant blue birds and ride it into court."

The ACLU praised Twitter in a blog post for "stand[ing] up for one of its users."

"If Internet users cannot protect their own constitutional rights, the only hope is that Internet companies do so," wrote Aden Fine, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. "We hope that other companies will do the same thing. Our free speech rights may depend on it.

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