Delaware Attorney General Throws Subpoeana At Reddit Over Comment On Photo Of Two People Having Sex Behind A Dumpster

from the your-tax-dollars:-workin'-it dept

Not necessarily a sign of widespread social media surveillance, but you still have to wonder how the state of Delaware’s Attorney General’s office managed to come across a comment referring to some St. Patrick’s Day-related NSFWing, much less pursue one unlucky commenter who made a joke about one of the participants being his “sister.”

Here’s a link to the photo which kicked off the unlikely chain of events. It depicts two green-clad people, presumably of consenting age, expressing their love in a physical manner. Needless to say, probably, very definitely NSFW.

Redditor un1cornbl00d received notice from Reddit that the Delaware DOJ had served a subpoena demanding the platform turn over his personal information, along with “all posts, responses and their content” related to the original submission. (Found here, with comments now deleted).

The good news is that Reddit’s privacy policy (which states that it will inform users that their information has been requested unless prohibited by a court order) trumps the ridiculous phrase the state DOJ deploys in all caps mid-subpoena.



Well, if you seriously believe an investigation might be “impeded” or “obstructed,” you might want to put with more legal weight than a caps lock key behind it. Most court orders don’t say “please,” and most court orders point out the legal reasons for the demand. This subpoena tries to demand compliance with shouty typing.

Apparently, this is the way things are done at Joe Biden Jr.’s office. Another subpoena sent late last year demanding that Facebook turn over information on the “owner” of a small (~300 likes at the time subpoena was issued) page with an anti-government slant contained similar all-caps demands for keeping everything a secret… which was also ignored.


Seeing as the subpoena was posted by the page being investigated, Facebook also has little respect for slightly larger letters with no legal weight behind them.

So, why would a “special investigator” at the state DA’s office be interested in a tossed-off comment on a photo of two people having sex out in the open? Well, as far as anyone can theorize, whoever’s monitoring social media for the Delaware DOJ (or the entities that feed into it) must have thought unic0rnbl00d was the rarest of creatures on the internet: someone who only tells the truth, and if so, was hoping to bust his “sister” (and possibly Joe Random Stranger as well). Quotes from police “investigating” the sex that two (probably inebriated) people momentarily enjoyed confirm that the force was indeed looking to slap these two with some sort of charge. (Link contains photo — NSFW)

[T]he police are investigating the pair on suspicion of lewd conduct. A Newark Police spokesman said the couple was “engaging in sexual intercourse in public in plain view of numerous passersby.”

Why the hell the state is so interested in punishing people for consensual acts performed in the past is beyond me, other than that pervasive belief that the word “justice” means no one getting away with anything ever. I would think whatever nearly-nonexistent tarnishing of state pride would pale in comparison to the state now being viewed as overreaching busybodies after sending subpoenas to track down an internet commenter and targeting people engaged in First Amendment activities. The latter subpoena is vastly more concerning, as it shows the state attempting to sniff out people with anti-government sentiments. Sure, the page may contain the word “riot,” but the full title of the group is “Peaceful Rioters For Wilmington, Delaware.”

Again, these may not be signs of active social media monitoring, but this sort of behavior certainly doesn’t reflect well on those in the Delaware law enforcement community. I can only assume the state has run out of real crime or other pressing issues and is now just creating busywork for its special investigators.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: reddit

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Delaware Attorney General Throws Subpoeana At Reddit Over Comment On Photo Of Two People Having Sex Behind A Dumpster”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Good to see that Delaware has solved...

…rape, murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson, assault, and all the other myriad crimes that actually have victims and can now turn its attention to offenses that don’t. I am certain that even now, this couple and other similar hardened criminals (e.g., jaywalkers) are quivering in their boots, knowing that they have been targeted by the sure and swift hand of Delaware justice, intent on eradicating the scourge of outdoor banging. (Which action will no doubt include a pre-dawn no-knock raid conducted by the SWAT team, backed up with a surplus military vehicle and a helicopter. And supporting personnel from the FBI, DHS, and DEA.)

The message is clear: take your nature humping over the border to Pennsylvania or Maryland (or even New Jersey): The First State is having none of it.

Socrates says:

Re: Good to see that Delaware has solved...

There is about 400.000 untested rape kits in the U.S.
That is more than 1/500 women, even if one were to count the infants and elderly. Some kits have become decades old without being tested.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

‘A Newark Police spokesman said the couple was “engaging in sexual intercourse in public in plain view of numerous passersby.”‘

Apparently they couldn’t be assed to do their job until it was posted online? Did numerous passersby call them and they blew it off?
Or were they trying to save face that they ignored/missed people having sex in public?

These sound like subpoenas that were supposed to generate useful soundbites…
…arrested people doing lewd things in public…
…averted a group from rioting…
Instead they managed to screw up big and have become laughing stocks.
Trampling on peoples rights, making demands with no legal requirement behind them… seems like a complete failure to understand the law… one should expect more from the freaking AG.

zip says:


It seems that over-zealous (and under-intelligent) law enforcement is something that there’s just no getting away from.

Something I just don’t understand … why do institutions such as nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals routinely call the police whenever a mentally-impaired patient firmly tells them “no thanks”? Like a 96-y.o. needing medical attention who refuses to get in an ambulance, police are called, and they respond with lethal force … because a stubborn 96 y.o. holding a shoehorn and not following commands to drop it (whether from senility or deafness or whatever) presents such a danger to 5 cops in the room that their only recourse is to fire their weapons? Unbelievable.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I can only assume the state has run out of real crime or other pressing issues and is now just creating busywork for its special investigators.”

Tim, I believe you’re on to something here. But more than running out of real crime I believe they’re just too lazy to actually do the work of investigating them which would require them to actually get out of their publicly funded Herman Miller chairs and, you know work. It’s much easier to troll the internet and issue subpoenas right from your computer.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: NSFWing

“Not Safe For Work”? In my definition that’s something like not wearing a hard hat on a construction site. Or drinking medium to large amounts of alcohol while operating heavy machinery.

But that’s a European point of view; the US one might include any accidental behaviour someone else at a workplace might consider objectionable.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: NSFWing

Speaking of European points of view, I’ve always found it amusing that despite the (supposedly) common language, the Americans and Brits have different names for virtually every single part of a car. The part known to an American car enthusiast as a passenger-side front spoiler would be known to a Brit (or reader of Haynes repair manuals) as a Near-Side Front Wing — or NSF-Wing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NSFWing

“[… NSFW] means anything that might get your employer upset at you for viewing at work. It covers more than just porn.”

Such as… browsing the web while on the clock? Or working at an “adult book store,” where I’m allowed to look at anything that’s legal to possess?

I believe “NSFW” is a subjective/context-sensitive (and therefore useless, if not insulting) designation.

What’s “unsafe” about the pic in this story, anyway? I can see neither cunt nor cock (never mind their alleged joining together) ? it’s “safe” for broadcast television per FCC regulations (SFBTVPFR); why not “work?” If the pic is in fact “NSFW,” I wonder how many Reddit/Techdirt/AG office/Newark PD employees were fired or otherwise endangered by this pic.


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NSFWing

It’s not insulting. It’s meant to provide fair warning to people that the content is likely to violate the rules of most workplaces.

Those rules tend to pretty clear and fairly consistent.

“Such as… browsing the web while on the clock? Or working at an “adult book store,” where I’m allowed to look at anything that’s legal to possess?”

Obviously, if you aren’t allowed to browse the web while on the clock, then the warning is inapplicable to you. Likewise, if your employer has no restrictions at all, the warning doesn’t apply to you.

“What’s “unsafe” about the pic in this story, anyway”

That if I were to view it in the office and another person were to see it, they could conceivably report me for being in violation of the sexual harassment rules, and I could conceivably be fired for doing it.

I’m not sure why you object so much to the NSFW designation. It’s informative and useful, not disparaging. I appreciate such warnings so that I don’t accidentally violate my employer’s internet use policies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: NSFWing

You need a dictionary to understand that? How about this definition: making something that is Not Safe For Work.

That helps, but doesn’t clarify it entirely. (One problem is that it doesn’t apply to the couple shown: they weren’t making anything.) Now that the weirdness has been pointed out, I find it kind of fascinating how lots of people can understand this.

First, you have to parse the phrase. NSFWing is not NSF-Wing, it’s not even really “not safe for working”, it’s “{not safe for work}-ing”; i.e., the -ing is to turn the entire phrase, not just “work”, into a present tense verb. (Are there other examples of this? It seems very strange.) Then you must figure out that “for work” means basically “at a workplace”, not “as a laborious task” or “as a form of employment” (i.e., having sex for money?not generally safe as a form of employment). You need to know that “safe” in NSFW really has nothing to do with safety (as was pointed out, workplace safety usually refers to hard hats, etc.); understanding the cultural context is vital: it’s related to a very American/puritan view that it’s “dangerous” to have a picture of a naked person near a workplace (which isn’t universally true in the USA, and probably less true outside the USA).

Somehow Tim made up this word, and it seemed to be mostly understood. I think I need to watch “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?” again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NSFWing

Really? We have to have a discussion about the meaning of the expression NSFW? Wow. /facepalm

We don’t have to, but I think we should. It’s a dumb, useless designation that’s subjective, and context/workplace-sensitive. (Please see my other comment above.)

I’m glad that you palmed/smacked your face when you finished your above comment &mmdash; I think you deserved it for questioning the merit of debating the merit of “NSFW.” Speaking of which… Depiction of workplace violence/self-harm ? your comment is “NSFW.” Stupid. Now you see?


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: NSFWing

“Somehow Tim made up this word, and it seemed to be mostly understood.”

It’s not so hard to understand this. “NSFW” has been in common use on the internet for a lot of years. Almost everyone understands what it means (and a quick google search will inform those for whom it’s unfamiliar). Adding “-ing” to it is wordplay on Tim’s part, the meaning of it being clear because it implements another common kind of wordplay: verbifying.

Anonymous Coward says:

– Served by fax?
– Ridiculous arguments?

That must be a joke. May be someone at the Delaware’s Attorney General’s office was drunk.
If wasn’t the own Joseph R. Biden III who signed that thing then he should prosecute who supplanted him using his signature. If was himself, well, then he looks like a complete moron.

DannyB (profile) says:


> Why the hell the state is so interested in punishing people
> for consensual acts performed in the past is beyond me

Because it much easier than investigating real crimes. And serious criminals have lots of money to make investigation and prosecution more difficult. So just stick to the infractions done by the little people. Plus, it’s more fun because they are easier to bully and intimidate.

Mr. Please says:

Polite Subpeona and more

At least they said, “please” don’t contact the OP. That’s got to count for something.

Also, has anyone else noticed that “subpoena” is a word with a phallic sound? I had to look twice to see if the DOJ individual was named, “Dick.” And sure enough, he was (that is we all know that Joe Biden is a dick).

Stan (profile) says:

“Why the hell the state is so interested in punishing people for consensual acts performed in the past is beyond me”

Its a crying shame that the DA is totally wasting tax dollars on this BUT the dumbass writer who make the above comment has shit for brains. Fact: having consensual sex in public is AGAINTS THE LAW in EVEY STATE. And the police don’t get to pick and choose if a crime is unworthy of prosecution and neither is the stupid ass writer of this article. Too bad you don’t like the law get over it.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...