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Twitter appeals against court decision in Occupy Wall Street protester case

Twitter has appealed a judge's order requiring [PDF] the company to turn over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester being prosecuted for disorderly conduct.

In June, a New York judge ruled that Twitter had to hand over three months' worth of tweets written by magazine editor Malcolm Harris, who is one of 700 protesters charged last autumn during a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. His Twitter account will allegedly prove Harris' failure to comply with police orders, the New York District Attorney has said.

Twitter had earlier contested the DA's request for a subpoena and now wants to reverse the court's 30 June decision and have the subpoenas for Harris' tweets rescinded.

"It was great news when Twitter filed its motion in May to quash the DA's subpoena after the court rules that Harris had no standing to challenge the subpoena," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Aden Fine said in a statement.

In support of Twitter, the ACLU will file a friend-of-the-court brief.

Fine said Twitter should be commended for taking such a bold step, "but Twitter shouldn't have even been forced to take it," he said.

In an earlier ruling, the court found that a user's tweets are not protected by the US Constitution, which Fine argued against, saying in a statement that Americans have the right to speak freely on the Internet, without concern for unreasonable searches.

"The courts shouldn't permit this," Fine argued, adding that information requested by the DA includes more than just the contents of Harris' tweets, but also his private subscriber information, including the IP addresses he used to access the site.

According to Twitter's Terms of Service, which the company cited in its May filing, users retain the rights to any content submitted, posted, or displayed on or through the service.

"By denying Twitter's and Harris' challenge, the court held that the government can access this wealth of sensitive information without satisfying basic constitutional protections. That isn't right," Fine said.