Judge Matthew Sciarino on Friday. Harris was accused of disorderly conduct after inciting protests that became known as the Occupy Wall Street last year. Harris used Twitter to rally protesters to march on Brooklyn Bridge. Twitter tried to stand its ground by initially refusing to provide data that would implicate Harris.
A government ruling last July demanded from Twitter to turn over Harris’ data, which Twitter immediately appealed. Frustrated by Twitter’s move, Judge Sciarino gave an ultimatum to the social networking site by saying that either it hands over the data or face contempt of court asking for a revelation of its last year’s income.
Currently, the tweets are under seal until a decision for the appeal is reached.
Twitter gets a lot of request from the US government regarding data on its users. It reportedly received 679 requests in the first half of 2012, of which 75% were granted.
It is known that internet privacy advocates and civil liberties are closely monitoring the case. The impact of Twitter’s decision to hand over the information to a New York criminal court is not yet clear. The court demanded to get a copy of Malcolm Harris’ tweets for three months. Account information is also being sought by the court. The said tweets can no longer be found unless inside help from Twitter is used.
About 700 protesters, including Harris, were arrested in the bridge protest. They maintained their position that they thought they were allowed to use the roadway at the time. The Manhattan court needs the tweets of Harris to prove that the police did not led the march on the bridge before turning around and arresting people for impending vehicular traffic and disorderly conduct. Lawyers of hundreds of people arrested maintained their defense that the case was the opposite.
Prosecutors think that the tweets will demonstrate that Harris intentionally instigated the march despite knowing the police told him not to walk on the roadway.
Some people believe the trial is a real test how internet companies will test government resolve to get user information.