We all know the back story of our federal government pursuing Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Bradely (sic) Manning. I find it interesting to see the criminal investigation unfolding with the subpoena of Twitter records in real time.
(The caption of an opinion by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia issued March 11, 2011, is reprinted below.)
Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan made quick work of constitutional law objections to the U.S. subpoena of non-content registration information stored with Twitter. I agree with the court that data provided in “click-through” agreements with ISP’s and social networking sites has no First Amendment protection.
The closer issue for me is the content of tweets themselves. The judge appears to have assumed out of hand that published tweets are thrown to the winds, and are publicly disclosed statements by their very nature. But in my experience, that is not necessarily so. Twitter accounts can be limited to authorized subscribers only. For example, the only people I permitted to read my tweets might be my lawyer, minister and spouse.
We have to assume in reading Judge Buchanan’s opinion that all the Twitter accounts under review were open to public subscription without any required authorization by the account holder and were in fact followed by non-privileged members of the public, in order for the “Twitter Order” reaffirming subpoenas to make sense.
In Re: §2703(d) Order; 10GJ3793
Miscellaneous No. 1:11dm00003
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION
2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25322
March 11, 2011, Decided
March 11, 2011, Filed