Doomsday prophecies sell well; it’s why so many believe that the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012 must mean that the world is ending then. The truth, however, is that the end of the Mayan calendar simply signals the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. And guess what, this dawning of a new age may be happening in cyberspace as well – and not always in a good way. Take for example Twitter’s recent revelation that the government requested personally identifiable information on people who sent anonymous tweets relating to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Twitter and Occupy Wall Street Subpoenas
The Occupy Movement was this generations “Vietnam War Protest” — if not in ideology, in enthusiasm and style. While mainstream media outlets were slow to react and report on the story, the Occupy Movement in New York (and around the world) really took hold as people came together to Peaceable Assembly, petitioning to redress grievances.
But According to USAToday, while citizens were exercising their right to protest, officials were filling out data-collecting paperwork. And as a result of government efforts, “A New York judge ordered Twitter to give prosecutors information about an Occupy Wall Street protester who was among 700 people arrested during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in October.”
Twitter was subpoenaed for information relating to the individual between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31, 2011. The social media company tried to fight it, saying that according to their terms of service, the information was technically owned by the user. But Twitter lost the argument and were ordered to give up the information.
“If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. wrote in an 11-page ruling relating to the Twitter disclosure case.
“There is no proprietary interest in your tweets, which you have now gifted to the world. This is not the same as a private e-mail, a private direct message, a private chat, or any of the other readily available ways to have a private conversation via the Internet that now exist. Those private dialogues would require a warrant based on probable cause in order to access the relevant information.”
According to Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner, the company plans to study their legal options.
“Twitter’s Terms of Service have long made it absolutely clear that its users ‘own’ their content,” she said in a statement. “We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights.”
Twitter Transparency Report
Government requests for Twitter information go beyond the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Like Google’s transparency report, it lays out which governments around the world have been requesting data from the social networking platform.
In the first half of 2012, Twitter received more government requests for information than the whole of 2011. In cases where the US government requested data, Twitter gave up some or all of the information about 75% of the time. In total, there were 849 government requests, of which the US made 679.
Additionally, Twitter has provided information on the number of copyright infringement or Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down notices received. For 2012, 3378 DMCA takedown notices were sent to Twitter, of which 38% were enacted.
We hold these truths to be self-evident…
While Twitter is an important social media network, it’s not the entire Internet. The World Wide Web is well known for harboring and giving voice to thousands and millions of people globally. And as we celebrate Fourth of July today in the United States, cyberspace is abuzz with talk of a “Declaration of Internet Freedom” campaign.
The Declaration of Internet Freedom campaign is borne out of the anti-SOPA, PIPA and ACTA community. The goal of the group is to limit to the codification of over-reaching legislation that unfairly favors entertainment and media companies and stifles free speech.
The idea came about when Free Press Internet campaign director Josh Levy, Reddit co-found Alexis Ohanian, and other Internet activists started to craft a “Declaration of Internet Freedom.”
The group hopes the document helps establish an “international movement” that takes action to keep the “World Wide Web” a “free speech zone.” The specifics remain up for refinement from the Internet community at large — and all you have to do to help shape this document is become involved.
Perhaps it’s time to Occupy Independence Day and do everything you can to spread the word. The more you know and the more other people know about proposed Internet laws, the more likely a document like the Declaration of Internet Freedom has of becoming enshrined into our public consciousness – and then hopefully our laws.