New Twitter Subpoena's Target Speaks Out on Case Stemming from His Occupy Wall Street Arrest

A new Twitter subpoena targeting an Occupy Wall Street protester's online activity has been issued by New York authorities, and its target has spoken with the International Business Times about the ordeal.

Twitter user @destructuremal, aka Brooklyn writer Malcolm Harris, received word from the social media site Monday that the office of New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney Cyrus Vance is subpoenaing Twitter for information related to his account.

Harris said via Gchat Tuesday morning that he is just a a humble writer with few tech skills and that his plan moving forward is first to meet with his lawyer, but also to make a scene generally. As for how he plans to do that, he's keeping it cryptic: I guess we'll find out.

Harris, 23, was arrested Oct. 1 along with about 700 other OWS supporters as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge as part of one of the Occupy movement's largest New York protests. He was hit with one summons for disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic, and is to return to court Feb. 29.

The subpoena [view the full subpoena here] commands Twitter to appear in New York County criminal court on Feb. 8, and to bring with you and produce the following items: 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 for the following Twitter account: @destructuremal.

The subpoena does not specify a particular employee of Twitter who is being required to appear in court, but it does go on to state that If you fail to attend and produce said items, you may be adjudged guilty of a Criminal Contempt of Court, and liable of a fine of one thousand dollars and imprisonment for one year.

The subpoena was received via fax last Thursday at Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco, and included the following message, which is similar to language in past Twitter subpoenas: Twitter is directed not to disclose the existence of this subpoena to any party. Such disclosure would impede the investigation being conducted and interfere with the enforcement of the law.

Twitter has not publicly stated yet whether or not it has provided the D.A.'s office with the requested information, but its Guidelines for Law Enforcement state that In accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, non-public information about Twitter users is not released except as lawfully required by appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process document.

The fact that Twitter released the subpoena to Harris should not come as a surprise, as Twitter's guidelines go on to state that Twitter's policy is to notify users of requests for their information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited from doing so by statute or court order.

But Harris provided some clarity on Twitter's intentions, tweeting Tuesday afternoon that @twitter has responded to our notice, and has said they won't move on disclosure in anticipation of the motion to quash.  

The New York County District Attorney's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the subpoena Tuesday morning, and Twitter has not responded to a Tuesday e-mail requesting comment. 

Harris said he is unsure why exactly he is being singled out from the hundreds of people who were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, but he does have additional status as a writer for The New Inquiry and Shareable.net, where he has put his strong support of the Occupy Wall Street movement into words. He offered the following reasons for what may distinguish among from the multitude of people arrested Oct. 1:

I've been involved in the [OWS] organizing since Aug. 2, he said. And there was the Radiohead thing. And yeah, [I've] written extensively.

The Radiohead thing refers to his being the guy behind the false claim that the British band would be playing live in Zuccotti Park for Occupy Wall Street protesters on Sept. 30. He told the Village Voice that the hoax was a ploy to get more people down to Zuccotti, and it inadvertenly made quite the mockery of the OWS press team in the process.

The subpoena does not indicate the reasons why it wants Harris's records, though he tweeted Monday, This is related to Brooklyn Bridge dis-con case as far as I know, adding today: This is legal equivalent of busting a party with loud noise and demanding my phone records for 3.5 months to see if I helped plan it.

Harris also questions the scope of the subpoena, as it seeks records beginning two days before Occupy Wall Street set up camp in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan -- well before the Brooklyn Bridge incident -- and extends until long after Zuccotti was cleared and Occupy the Brooklyn Bridge had faded from many people's memory.

The subpoena is not the first of its kind. In January 2011, Twitter was subpoenaed for records related to WikiLeaks, and in December the Suffolk County (Boston) District Attorney's office in Massachusetts subpoenaed Twitter for the records of two Twitter users and, oddly, a hashtag.

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