David Bell in Lawyers com: Guess What - You Don’t Own Your Tweets


When prosecutors in the case issued a subpoena to Twitter for Malcom Harris’s tweets, Harris first opposed the attempt. But the judge easily dismissed Harris’s challenge to the subpoena, saying he had no standing to complain because at that time, Twitter’s policies indicated that the social media channel, not users, owned all tweets and enjoyed the rights to distribute them. Since then, Twitter has changed its terms of service to more clearly indicate that users own their tweets. 

Prosecutors believe that Malcolm Harris was tweeting about an issue he is trying to use in his defense and that his tweets may contradict that defense – that the police, not the protestors, led the parade onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge. He is being prosecuted by the Manhattan DA’s office for trespassing.

Social Media Lawyers Say Ruling Not Surprising

David Bell, a partner with Haynes and Boone, LLP in Dallas and chair of the firm’s social media practice, agrees, adding that a more difficult case might involve a situation in which the user limits his posts to a few dozen friends or followers. “There,” says Bell, “the social media poster should have a much more reasonable expectation of privacy.” In that situation a tweet would be more like a private email, he adds.

Excerpted from Lawyers.com, July 10, 2012. To view full article, click here.

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