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25 February 2024

Anti-Wall Street protester's Tweets subpoenaed

By Reuters

Prosecutors have subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Wall Street protester who was arrested in October during a mass protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Jan 26 subpoena from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office seeks "user information, including email address," along with three months' worth of tweets from @destructuremal, the Twitter handle for Malcolm Harris.

Harris, 23, a freelance writer and editor who lives in the New York borough of Brooklyn, said Tuesday that Twitter sent a copy of the subpoena to him on Monday. He posted it on Twitter.

"When you get an email from Twitter Legal, you assume it's a phishing scam, trying to get your password," he said. "It turned out that it is a phishing scam, but it's from the prosecutors."

It is not clear what specific evidence prosecutors are after. But the subpoena is an example of posts on social media sites posing potential legal problems for authors.

Harris said his lawyer, Martin Stolar of the National Lawyers Guild, would file a motion to quash the subpoena. Twitter has agreed not to comply with the subpoena while Stolar prepares the motion, Harris said.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office declined comment.

The subpoena seeks Harris' tweets from Sept. 15 - two days before the Occupy Wall Street movement began - to Dec. 15. Harris is not sure what tweets could be fodder for prosecutors; Twitter's interface does not allow him to review all of his old tweets.

Stolar was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on the case but confirmed that the San Francisco-based company's policy is "to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so," in order to protect users' rights.

Harris is one of hundreds of Occupy-related defendants whose cases are still winding their way through the court system. A special courtroom has been set up to handle more than 1,800 cases in New York, the vast majority involving misdemeanor charges.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and is due back in court on Feb 29. Like a number of Occupy protesters, he has vowed to take the case to trial rather than accept a deal from prosecutors.

The National Lawyers Guild is representing many of the arrested protesters.