NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Occupy Wall Street protester whose tweets were subpoenaed pleaded guilty Wednesday to disorderly conduct, in a case that became a clash over social media privacy.
Malcolm Harris was sentenced to six days of community service Wednesday. His attorney, Martin Stolar, said Harris wanted to plead guilty so that he could focus on appealing a decision by the judge to hand over his Twitter messages to the prosecution.
Harris, a writer and editor in his 20s, was among more than 700 people arrested during a march on the Brooklyn Bridge in the early days of the Occupy movement on Oct. 1 of last year.
Police said demonstrators ignored warnings to stay on a pedestrian path and went onto the roadway. Harris and others said they thought they had police permission to go on the roadway.
Prosecutors said Harris’ tweets proved he was there and subpoenaed Twitter to get them.
The case became a closely watched legal tussle over law enforcement agencies’ access to material posted on social networks.
San Francisco-based Twitter went to court on Harris’ behalf, saying he had every right to fight the subpoena. Its user agreements say that users retain rights to content they post and can challenge demands for their records, and it would be “a new and overwhelming burden” for Twitter to have to champion such causes for them, the company argued in a court filing.
But Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. ordered Twitter to turn over the tweets.
“If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy,” wrote the social-media-savvy Sciarrino, who laced his last ruling with the hashtag marks used to mark key words in tweets.
Twitter complied and handed over almost three moths’ worth of Harris’ tweets.
Do you think Twitter should have been compelled to hand over the documents? Leave your comments below…
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