Can Tweets be private?

Twitter filed an appeal in New York Supreme Court Monday--arguing that individuals should have privacy rights in their Twitter accounts. Among other things, Twitter aruges, law enforcement shouldn’t have access to tweets that are no longer available or deleted. From the Washington Post:

The case turns on the Twitter account of Malcolm Harris who was arrested while walking on the Brooklyn Bridge during a 2011 protest. Early this year, prosecutors issued subpoenas demanding that Twitter turn over information for two names associated with Harris: “@destructuremal” and “@getsworse.” Twitter responded by telling Harris about the subpoenas who then asked a court to quash them.


The judge ruled that the tweets belonged to Twitter not Harris and wrote “the motion to “#quash” was “#denied.” (Seriously. #nojoke)

He ruled that Harris had no privacy rights in his tweets on the grounds that Twitter is like shouting on the street where everyone can hear. He added “the street is an online, information superhighway, and the witnesses can be the third party providers like Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, Pinterest.”


If the appeal fails, and tweets, once tweeted, are #4ever, what’s it mean to the value of Twitter? And the ways people should and shouldn’t use it?

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.
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