Twitter Transparency and Occupy Independence Day
Let’s quickly talk about a famous Twitter transparency incident.
Back in 2012, the Internet erupted in censorship rage because the U.S. government requested personally identifiable information, from Twitter, about Occupy Wall Street tweeters.
Twitter and Occupy Wall Street Subpoenas
The Occupy Movement was this generations “Vietnam War Protest” — if not in ideology, in passion. From a historical perspective, it also permanently propelled social media into the political realm.
Law Enforcement Requests Information From Twitter
According to USAToday, while citizens exercised their protest rights, officials submitted data requests. And, much to the chagrin of First Amendment supporters, “a New York judge ordered Twitter to hand over information about an Occupy Wall Street protester.”
Twitter received a data request subpoena, but the social media company fought it, arguing that users owned the information, not Twitter.
Ultimately, though, Twitter lost and was forced to divulge 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 transparency 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 a Twitter spokesperson, the company plans to review 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.”
The Twitter Transparency Report
Government requests for social media data goes beyond this Occupy Wall Street incident.
To make sure citizens are aware of such requests, Twitter releases a biannual transparency report detailing government information inquiries.
In the first half of 2012, Twitter received more government requests for information than the whole of 2011. In total, administrations issued 849 government requests; 679 were from the U.S.
How many requests did Twitter fulfill? Allegedly, 75%.
Twitter also posted copyright infringement (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down request data. For 2012, 3,378 parties sent DMCA notices to Twitter, of which 38% were enacted. ***
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