When I first heard about Twitter failing to provide police with the information about the user who posted threats about committing mass murder at the opening of Mike Tyson’s play, I thought, “what a bunch of a**holes!”
I mean really?
In the wake of the massacre at the opening of Dark Knight in Aurora, I would think that anyone receiving a threat involving a mass killing would be more than willing to comply.
Even more so, if that threat were communicated over a public forum or via social media.
I wouldn’t have imagined that Twitter would have refused to turn over user information to police, especially when that request was made pursuant to Twitter’s so-called “Emergency Request” provision.
Twitter’s Guidelines for Law Enforcement, states, in pertinent part:
Twitter evaluates emergency disclosure requests on a case-by-case basis. If we receive information that gives us a good faith belief that there is an emergency involving the death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide information necessary to prevent that harm, if we have it.
So you can imagine my dismay to learn that police had (in fact) made their request consistent with Twitter’s policy…and were still denied!
I get it.
No company which has an obligation to protect the privacy of its users, wants to be perceived as failing to maintain those boundaries, by simply bowing to every request from law enforcement.
And I’m sure that there are many less-then-emergent requests they’ve received over time.
But where the content being published is public, and the user voluntarily broadcasts their musings for all to see…
Or worse, when the user intends to cause panic or alarm, then the cost of protecting the privacy of an individual (crazed) user should definitely be outweighed to the benefit of protecting the public from menace.
In this instance, Twitter’s position was that there was nothing particularly specific about the threat.
Did dude have to put a time in the Tweet?
I’m going to kill 600 people on Saturday at 1:30 pm CST.
A Twitter spokesperson added that if law enforcement wanted their records, they could obtain a subpoena to obtain them.
And, in fact, that’s precisely what the police did.
Three days after their initial request, Twitter was subpoenaed and turned over the records.
Three days later.
You have an emergency request provision FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT and you felt comfortable denying a request for information about a threatened mass murder by one of your users?
Not that I wish harm on anyone, but how effin’ crazy would Twitter have looked if dude actually followed through on his threat prior to being subpoenaed?
Is that what it takes?
And let’s be real.
Does this guy have any legitimate expectation of privacy, that Twitter should have taken such a stance?
He’s a nut job.
And Twitter is nutty too.