AfterDawn: Tech news

Twitter will alert users before handing over information to authorities

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 25 May 2011 18:45 User comments (7)

Twitter will alert users before handing over information to authorities Twitter will alert users that they are being pursued if they are forced to hand over user information to authorities.
Tony Wang, who heads up Twitter's European operations, commented when asked about an online privacy dispute that is beginning to boil over in the UK. "Platforms should have responsibility not to defend the user, but to protect that user's right to defend him or herself," said Wang.

On several occasions, information has shown up on Twitter that could be found to violate the law in the UK. This often includes personal information about people in the public eye, such as celebrities and athletes.

The case that has brought the questionable legality of some tweets to the front pages started with a so called superinjunction granted to a Premier League footballer when it became clear that the mainstream media was throwing around a story alleging he had an affair.

When a superinjunction of this nature is issued, the mainstream media (newspapers and their websites, television news stations etc.) generally honor it. However, it becomes blurry when you consider that a UK citizen can use Twitter to publish that information quite easily, and it can quickly spread across the site.

Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs was outed as the Premier League star who had been granted the injunction several weeks ago, which at the time was honored by the media. However, it was no secret on Twitter very quickly.

News then made the rounds that Giggs' lawyers have filed a lawsuit to identify the sources of the tweets that helped spread the rumor wide and far. The case also got blown into the mainstream media, despite the injunction, when a member of parliament in the UK used his immunity to identify Giggs as the footballer behind the injunction.

Since then there has been a lot of mixed feelings. In some corners, the whole idea of a superinjunction is being challenging in a free society, while others stress the need to also protect people's personal and private matters from being all over the front pages.

Some Manchester United fans also questioned the timing of the media's mass intervention into the case, which came pretty much on the day that the club won a record 19th Premier League title (Giggs' 12th), and just a week ahead of the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday where Manchester United will face Barcelona in the biggest football game of the season.

Manchester police even confirmed that cars belonging to journalists and paparazzi outside Giggs home were attacked by masked men in an incident earlier this week.

U.S.-based Twitter is likely to hand over user information related to the case, but the website will alert the user first to prepare them to fight their corner.

"If we're legally required to turn over user information, to the extent that we can, we want to notify the user involved, let them know and let them exercise their rights under their own jurisdiction," Wang said. "That's not to say that they will ultimately prevail, that's not to say that law enforcement doesn't get the information they need, but what it does do is take that process into the court of law and let it play out there."

Tags: Twitter
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7 user comments

125.5.2011 19:03

How about simply saying no like you should be doing instead?

225.5.2011 21:31

Twitter should protect our user's information and interests.

325.5.2011 23:25

Unfortunately, they can't really say no in some cases. The governments of many countries have made laws requiring them to comply with requests for information...usually they say it is to stop terrorists or something. Of course, now it is being used to try to squash a story about a cheating footballer...not to crush terrorists.

426.5.2011 3:05

If a court subpoenas a person or company to provide that court evidence then they have to comply.

If they don't they face getting a few different charges like holding up a court, not providing evidence, contempt of the court etc.

A bit like some helping say a murderer to get inside a house but they don't actually go inside, but them just helping them will mean they have become an accomplice to the murderer as they could have stopped them but instead helped them.

Twitter is just trying to get out of the contempt of court charge, the end person is screwed either way, as they can goto court or not goto court but if they don't the court process still goes ahead with or without them and them simply don't get any defence or what ever to get out of the charges.

Generally those sorts of case will goto who ever turns up in court but generally a court will do a warrant for the arrest of the person for failing to turn up at court and will be forced to do their side of the proceeding.

It doesn't really pay to keep saying no or trying to get out of it.

526.5.2011 10:00

How generous of you Twitter........the fact that you even have to say this is without integrity. It should be DeFacto.

626.5.2011 16:49

The point is that if people and companies didn't put up with these kind of laws that are seriously detrimental to free speech they wouldn't be laws for very long. It's easy to say the have to do it but no that's not the case they don't have to do anything. I've never accepted the rationality that because a court says something must be done that it must, the only reason that works is because people allow themselves to fear such things.

73.6.2011 8:31

Humourous comments above which to an extent miss the point perhaps due to an incomplete report on the case and a few missing facts and some smart UK lawyers.

Had they applied to a UK Court for Twitter to reveal the information it would have been a non-starter and would be thrown out.

Once the info was released via Parliamentary Privaledge the injunction was basically null and void as it has to be published in Hansard and as such the media are free to report it. Case over.

They didn't, they went to a US Court. As a US based company Twitter is bound by US law.

Can't see what they hope to gain.


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