Twitter is fighting to protect the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester in trouble with the law, but a judge ruled that the company must give prosecutors more than three months of tweets that Malcolm Harris wrote using the @destructuremal handle. (The account now belongs to another Twitter user.)
"The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts," Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. wrote. "What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you."
Prosecutors hope the tweets will show that Harris disregarded police orders while marching on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1, 2011. Along with hundreds of others, Harris is charged with disorderly conduct for participating in the march.
UPDATE, Aug. 28: Twitter appealed the ruling to the New York Supreme Court, with its attorney tweeting the following argument.
Twitter users own their Tweets. They have a right to fight invalid government requests, and we continue to stand with them in that fight.
— Benjamin Lee (@BenL) August 27, 2012
UPDATE, Sept. 14: Twitter gave the tweets to authorities today, the deadline after which a judge would have started levying heavy fines against the company for failing to comply with a court order.