Social media is one of the most powerful tools today to rally people to any cause. We saw that happen frequently during Occupy movements. However, when the cause that is rallied to disagrees with the law or the government, it leads to a legal battle, both for the social networks as well as for their users.
A case in point is that of Malcolm Harris who allegedly used Twitter to rally people to an Occupy Wall Street demonstration on Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan District Attorney had asked Twitter to hand over Harris’ tweets as part of a case against Harris, to which Twitter refused.
But it would seem that Twitter’s efforts to counter the law from accessing private tweets of one of its users proved futile. Back in July, a court decided that Twitter must surrender the tweets but Twitter appealed the decision. However, now Judge Sciarino has told the social network that if it doesn’t hand over the tweets by Friday, it will have to face fines over contempt of court charges.
As a result, Twitter has now decided to surrender Harris’ tweets. Although this is an isolated case, this can set a unique precedent: that the user data on social networks belongs to the company and not to the user. So rather than asking Harris to hand over the tweets, the court pressurized Twitter to same end. Needless to say such a precedent is definitely not something users of social networks will like.
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