Who will stand up for you in a court of law? Twitter will.
Twitter has stood up for one of users, Malcolm Harris, in a US court, filing a motion to reject a court order which asked the social media company to turn over 3 months of the user's tweets.
Harris, a senior editor at The new Inquiry, is being prosecuted by the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for disorderly conduct during the Occupy protest that on the Brooklyn Bridge last year.
Twitter argued against the order, saying that it should not be obliged to hand over three months of Malcolm Harris' tweets, saying that Twitter's terms of service "make absolutely clear that its users own their content".
A tip in Twitter's terms clearly says "Twitter has an evolving set of rules for how ecosystem partners can interact with your content. These rules exist to enable an open ecosystem with your rights in mind. But what’s yours is yours – you own your Content (and your photos are part of that Content)."
The move is a "big deal", according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
They say that law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeking information about what we're doing on the internet.
An ACLU spokesman told The Huffington Post via email that it's becoming increasingly frequent: "It is becoming increasingly clear that law enforcement around the US is aggressively issuing subpoenas and obtaining court orders to obtain information about people’s internet activities and communications. We don’t know exactly how often, because the vast majority of these requests are never made public, and many are kept secret by court order. But we do know that it is occurring a lot."
The ACLU says it's important to understand that what you do and say on the internet is, unfortunately, not as private as we all expect.
Their spokesman said: "Because of the way the Internet works, there is a record of virtually everything that we do. What that means is that we are unfortunately often forced to depend on the good will of our Internet companies. That’s why what Twitter did in filing a motion on behalf of one of its users is such a big deal, and why we’re hopeful other companies will do the same."
The twist to the case is that when Harris himself tried to quash the court order, the court said he did not have the legal standing to do so, as he did not own the tweets. Not only was that wrong, as Twitter pointed out, but it points to individuals' increasing reliance on internet companies to protect them in courts of law.
The Occupy protestor naturally took to Twitter to share his pleasure at the company's support, and his dismay at the court's actions.