Kudos To Twitter For Not Just Rolling Over When The US Gov't Asked For Info

from the nice-to-see dept

While plenty of companies (*cough* AT&T *cough*), seem to bend over backwards to give the government more info than is required by law, it's nice to see that Twitter was willing to push back a bit. We've already covered the feds demand for info from Twitter concerning various folks associated with Wikileaks, but I wanted to do a separate post pointing out that it appears Twitter stood up and fought for its users' rights, when it could have easily just backed down. The details suggest that the court order was initially issued under seal on December 14th, giving Twitter just three days to hand over the info. Yet, last week, for unclear reasons, the magistrate judge allowed the seal to be removed, at which point Twitter reached out and notified the users, to see if they wanted to use the legal system to fight the demand for info (it appears most, if not all, are planning to do so). Lots of companies don't go nearly that far, so it's worth highlighting that Twitter appears to have gone above and beyond to protect its users' privacy. Of course, it also makes you wonder who else the feds issued similar orders to... and who just handed over the info.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    The survival of Twitter may well depend on it.

    What happens when the local and international public trust is broken?

     

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  2.  
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    Drizzt, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

    Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    As has been pointed out by various others already: the reasons why Twitter could push back in the recent Wikileaks case is largely due to the fight of Mr. Merrill about which he talked at last years CCC (video (MP4)/audio only (Ogg/Vorbis)). He set the precedence, and if I'm informed correctly the USA use a case-law system. So the praise should be equally spread between Twitter using the available tools and Mr. Merrill for creating them. Cheers, Drizzt

     

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  3.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 3:59pm

    Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    I've been bitching about google doing the opposite for years. Nice to see at least one corporation will actively strive to avoid evil banality.

     

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  4.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 4:37pm

    This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    I wonder if this will work out better for the US government than it did for the record labels. I some how doubt it. With RIAA and the labels you had an annoyance. With the US government you have a world superpower that is a threat to the first amendment and free speech on the internet. Confiscating domain names, shutting down peoples access to financial services, violating the first, fourth, and fourteenth amenedments of the constitution, calls for the assasination of the head of a foreign news organization. All in all power blatantly abused at the highest levels of government.

    With RIAA and the labels actions we have seen a slow gradual change in technology. With the US government getting involved in online affairs I expect to see a huge, and very fast increase in encryption usage and distributed systems. The words "Wake Up Call" come to mind.

    I wonder who will win this battle over free speech, freedom to express our thoughts, and privacy on the internet? The billions of us or couple tens of thousand of them.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    bob, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 5:16pm

    To My Knowledge

    Only Twitter and Google have pushed back against the feds.
    I wish more orgs. had the stones to do that.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Drizzt, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 5:38pm

    Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    Then the right answer if you're a American citizen or more precisely: plan to deploy something (web-based) in the USA is, to seek out enterprises like those of Mr. Merrill and support them by doing business with them.

    Just to make sure: I'm not affiliated in any kind with Mr. Merrill and would deem any other service provider going to the same lengths to protect the data of its customers an equal.

    To me, it seems, the main problem with all systems is, that sooner or later somebody will come along and offer you to make a complex system easily usable/understandable. That is generally the point where you need to watch out the most because it is the time when "they" (which in the end, sooner or later, comes back to "the powers that be", even though they had different names over the centuries) try to take back control.

    Cheers,
    Drizzt

    P.S.@Mike: Can you change your software not to add multiple "Re: "s to the subject line? That is totally wrong, because the "Re" doesn't stand for "reply". Thanks!

     

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  7.  
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    Thamios, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 5:41pm

    Re: This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    "Calls for the assassination of the head of a foreign news organization"

    State your source, please. Stuff like this just makes you sound insane, and without sources for this kind of thing, no one will listen to you.

    The rest won't really argue with, though.

     

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  8.  
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    Esahc (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    couldn't agree with you more . . .

    Damn reformed drow.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 7:00pm

    Re: To My Knowledge

    Google has stones. Yup. They stood up to the feds to look good, and then quietly gave in. We won't even mention what they did in China.

    Twitter is doing the same thing. They are standing up to the big bad feds, but quietly, they will give all the data when the storm dies down a bit.

     

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  10.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 7:51pm

    You know what happens when you stand up? You get gagged.

    This thing has been going on for a lot longer. The mistake they made is doing it via DOJ instead of via the FBI. I recently saw a speech by a guy at a hacker conference, who had had a similar request from the FBI, but was gagged. He would not even have been able to inform anyone in his company that he would be giving out information. He protested it, went to court, etc. but before he could win, the FBI withdrew their request, but the gag remained!

    Here is the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6xsv4azzpc

    "My name is Nicholas Merrill and I was the plaintiff in a legal case in the US court system where I challenged the FBI's policy of using a feature of the so-called USA PATRIOT act - what are called "National Security Letters" - to bypass the American Constitution's system of checks and balances and in violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights - in order to obtain protected personal information and to unmask anonymous Internet users. I spent over 6 years not able to speak to anyone (other than my lawyers) about my case - forced to lie to those closest to me due to an FBI gag order that carried a possible 10 year prison sentence for violating it."

    Mike, you really need to see this. As does everyone else. This DOJ subpoena really reminds me of this particular case. It's terrible.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Big Al, Jan 10th, 2011 @ 10:20pm

    Re: Re: This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    Julian Assange, titular head of Wikileaks. Heard of him?

     

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  12.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    So what does it stand for?

     

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  13.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Jan 10th, 2011 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Re: This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    The rest won't really argue with, though.

    How could you. You were stupid enough to pretend the threat against Assange's live by US officals wasn't all over the news.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Spointman, Jan 11th, 2011 @ 12:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    I think it stands for "Regarding".

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Spointman, Jan 11th, 2011 @ 12:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    Wikipedia says:

    # RE: or "Re:" followed by the subject line of a previous message indicates a reply to that message.

    * re (the ablative of res 'thing') has been used in English since the 18th century to mean 'in the matter of', 'referring to', or 'about'.[1] In business letters and memoranda, "Re:" may be used instead of "Subject:" to set off the topic.[2]. However, "Re" in e-mail is used only for replies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RE_%28e-mail%29

     

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  16.  
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    Christopher (profile), Jan 11th, 2011 @ 12:44am

    Re:

    In a perfect world, business would go out of business and governments would be slapped on the hand by the courts.

     

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  17.  
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    Christopher (profile), Jan 11th, 2011 @ 12:47am

    Re: Re: To My Knowledge

    Don't bet on it. 99% of the time when a company takes this stance, they stick with it.

     

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  18.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 11th, 2011 @ 3:32am

    Re: Re: Re: This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    thanks

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 11th, 2011 @ 3:55am

    Re: Re: This seems to be the year that the US Government will try to quash the 1st amendment and privacy on the internet.

    "State your source, please. Stuff like this just makes you sound insane, and without sources for this kind of thing, no one will listen to you."

    Big Al is right Jullian Assange. I choose to combine two seperate pieces of information into one statement. Fox, cnn, msnbc, and several other stations have called jullian assange a news man, reporter, or journalist. This was after those same new organization had guests, politicians and their own comentators call for the assasination of Jullian Assange. I hope that clarifies it for you. ;)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Drizzt, Jan 11th, 2011 @ 5:57am

    Re: Twitter being able to push back big thanks to Nick Merrill

    Somebody quoted WP already, but I had more RFC 5322 in mind (yes, that's the RFC for e-mails, but as the structure of the comment system here is pretty close to an e-mail and this multiple Re thing was also shown by some MUAs in the past, I assumed, that the Re here is the same as in e-mails). The relevant part reads:

    When used in a reply, the field body MAY start with the string "Re: " (an abbreviation of the Latin "in re", meaning "in the matter of") followed by the contents of the "Subject:" field body of the original message.

    Therefore one Re is more than enough. ;-)

    Cheers,
    Drizzt

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Drizzt, Jan 11th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Re:

    Maybe we can keep the discussion of Mr. Merrill's fight in one thread: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110110/01084212585/kudos-to-twitter-not-just-rolling-over-when-us -govt-asked-info.shtml#c22 ;-)

    Cheers,
    Drizzt

     

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  22.  
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    SandraF (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    "who just handed over the info"

    "Of course, it also makes you wonder who else the feds issued similar orders to... and who just handed over the info."

    I would think Amazon, Visa and Mastercard would be high on the list (of those who just handed info over). And perhaps B of A.

    Just guessing though.

     

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  23.  
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    AutoTweet (profile), Jan 16th, 2011 @ 11:56am

    It takes a brave company ( or a really rich or stupid one ) to stand up to government requests. With lawyers all over the place, the feds have enough taxpayer funded manpower to harass anyone - right or wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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