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Demonstrators affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on the motorway on October 1, 2011 in New York City. The motorway portion of the bridge is not intended for pedestrians and as the marchers attempted to cross, they were stopped midway by police. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
In a ruling that could affect Occupy protesters around the nation, a judge in Manhattan ruled that prosecutors can successfully subpoena tweets from a defendant even if they no longer appear on the site.
Prosecutors argued that the public tweets of Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protestor, could prove that Harris knew that he was in violation of the law when he and others were arrested for marching on the Brooklyn Bridge in October.
"There is, in fact, reasonable grounds to believe the information sought was relevant and material to this investigation," Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. wrote in a decision Friday, reports the Associated Press.
The judge made sure not to be misunderstood by putting a hashtag next to the word "denied."
"All of the tweets that we request are communications that the defendant put out there, into the world, and he has no privacy interest," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Lee Langston argued at the hearing in March.
"The very purpose of Twitter is to spread this information to the entire world," Langston added.
Martin Stolar, Harris' lawyer, complained that the breadth of the tweets the prosecutors requested was unreasonably broad. And worse, that because the information contained time and location data, it was similar to GPS tracking, which requires a warrant, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Judge Sciarrino, addressing the privacy concerns, ruled “defendant’s contention that he has privacy interests in his Tweets to be understandable, but without merit.”