US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

Summary: A US court issuing a subpoena ordering Twitter to hand over personal information about users' accounts who support or are involved with Wikileaks serves as a startling reminder that this could happen to anyone.

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The US government has subpoenaed Twitter in a bid to support an ongoing criminal investigation into whether Wikileaks and people involved or connected to Wikileaks, including an Icelandic member of parliament, broke the law.

According to Wikileaks lawyer Mark Stephens live on the BBC News a short time ago, it is believed Facebook and Google (see here) have also been contacted regarding Wikileaks members and potential whistleblowers.

Update (12:20am GMT): Mark Stephens on the BBC News also makes clear that the court order will also cover the "600,000 odd followers that Wikileaks has on Twitter".

The order asks specifically for names of those attached to selected accounts, user and screen names, and any registered mailing or postal addresses. It also asks for email addresses, credit card details where possible, and even content relating to connected mobile phones.

The server logs which could identify the computer and geographical location of where even private messages were sent from have also been ordered to be handed over.

According to CNN:

"A federal court in Virginia has ordered Twitter to provide information for each account registered to Assange, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, Rop Gonggrijp, a reported computer hacker from the Netherlands, and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of parliament in Iceland and a former volunteer with WikiLeaks, according to documents sent to CNN by Jónsdóttir."

Twitter is in a difficult position. Considering their stance during the Iranian elections supporting the freedom of speech, it will appear as if the company is backtracking or giving into pressure by handing over details of its users to its government.

Jónsdóttir retweeted a message purporting Twitter's efforts, however, in bringing this subpoena into the public domain.

This case should resonate with younger users especially, as prolific social network users, that US law can apply to users of social networking sites to users outside the United States, as seen in this case.

Though datacenters are held worldwide in different locations to allow network load balancing, locale reliability and data backups, the organisations which provide these services are based mostly in the US. Both Twitter and Facebook are based in California, as are many startup and social media companies.

For example, if one publishes a threatening tweet from the UK to a service based in the US, this can be used in a UK or US court of law if the company is subpoenaed.

Users should also be reminded that sharing links to still-classified documents hosted by Wikileaks could be risky to future career prospects, such as in the public sector or the diplomatic corps.

The younger generation who are largely unaware of legal processes should be aware that it is nearly impossible to delete a message from the Web once it has been published. Also, as this case shows, published content even from social networking sites can be used against you in a court of law.

Topics: Legal, Data Centers, Google, Government, Networking, Servers, Start-Ups

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57 comments
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  • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

    And the U.S. still dictates to its citizens which countries they can and cannot visit and do business with. So what is new? The land of the Free and the Brave is the farthest thing from it. Sad.
    Goldie07
    • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

      @Goldie07
      Which countries where you not allowed to visit?
      choyongpil
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil

        Iran and North Korea, to name two.
        Lerianis10
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil

        Let's not forget Cuba
        infoscatter
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        Lerianis10
        A US citizen can visit Iran and North Korea, ref US State department.
        choyongpil
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil poor US citizens cannot relax in the sun on a beautiful beach in Cuba...nor can they enjoy a real cuban cigar. Glad to be a Canadian!
        Bradish1
      • Also Cuba - by 40 years old US government policy.

        @choyongpil
        anthonymaw
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil Cuba as well...
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil You can get to cuba, just not from america, and with the way planes fly these days, a switch over in mexico is not really that big a deal...
        nickdangerthirdi
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @choyongpil
        And what exactly would be the reason(s) you wish to "visit" these obviously capriciously forbidden Shangri-La's? Perhaps you would enjoy the luxurious lodgings and culinary delights of their state "hotels" where infidels, er..tourists, stay while in country. Make sure you send us lots of pics, please.
        Datadad
    • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

      @Goldie07 Remember it was the President of the US (Obama) that lectured to Chinese uni students in Shanghai about internet freedom and how important it is...er was?
      This sounds like many of the comments that come from Chinese leaders...words do not reflect reality. What kind of country is this?
      Bradish1
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @Bradish@...
        Perhaps the subtle context of the references to internet freedom were lost on you @Bradish. It is a well known reality that China has an extremely restrictive net policy for its population while concurrently state-sponsoring global hacking/DOS/DDOS programs. True, N. Korea is more restrictive(but more invasive to global IT resources), to the point of not really having WWW access for "the masses". Perhaps you should travel abroad and see how the world functions in reality, not just inside isolated "intellectual bubbles".
        Datadad
    • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

      @Goldie07 ... Why then do you notmove on to one of those utopias? I'll help you put together an itenerary.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
    • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

      @Goldie07
      Interesting myopic viewpoint, and yet...."Big Brother" somehow allowed your posting..hmmm?!? When was the last time you visited our emancipated foreign brethren? Oops! Gotta run and put my aluminum foil hat back on to elude the thought police!
      Datadad
  • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

    @peter_erskine@...
    Would you not want someone that burglarized your home be prosecuted. How is this any different if the US legal system is looking into a possible crime.
    choyongpil
    • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

      @choyongpil<br><br>Would you feel the same way if those leaked messages had come from a government other than the US? What if they had come from an enemy state? What if they revealed plans about a possible attack on the US? Would you still feel the same, or would Assange be a hero?<br><br>Wikileaks is a place where people who believe that all information should be available to the people can put said information. Not everyone believes that just because the CIA or the FBI or even the White House says that it is so, that it should be so. And shouldn't they have that right in a supposedly free country?<br><br>How can a democracy function when there are so many secret factions within its structures, when its politicians are spreading so many lies? How can the American people make informed voting decisions when half the information they need to know is being kept from them?<br><br>The guy burglarizing your house isn't stealing your freedom, just your tv.
      ebudae9
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @ebudae@... <br>#1-Those messages weren't "leaked", they were stolen by a very low level miscreant who abused access/trust he was granted. WOW! Do you really believe it saves the world to know that diplomats don't trust many of their peers? Also, Assange will never be a hero while he hides behind the skirts of legal loopholes in the convenient country of the week. Thinly veiled threats by lackeys does nothing to substantiate his "virtues". <br>#2-The information didn't come from your CIA/FBI bogeymen. State Department cables in general are akin to Post-it-Notes (Speaking as someone who has had high level{Secret+} clearances). Julian's motives aside, my biggest gripe is that it would have been morally responsible to redact the names of agents/exposed persons/spies to protect their lives while following govt. orders without comprising the information being presented. Accessory to murder is just that, no matter how much he purports to not be responsible. Rule of law is a basic tenet of modern civilized society, no matter what country: to wit- The Nuremberg Trials post WWII.<br>#3-If you want anyone to have the right to post everything, no matter how sensitive, then you should enact that kind of legislation(however impossible that may be).
        Your entire last paragraph is incredibly naive/paranoid. Our democracy actually functions relatively well in spite of an unfortunate amount of self-serving elected officials and conspiracy theorists. Most of the lies/half-truths spread by politicians are done so because the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Americans have the political attention span of a gnat with ADD. People are frequently told exactly what they want/expect to hear, and don't exert even the smallest effort to verify their "facts" ie-death panels. Don't forget that 50% voter turnout is huge in this country. However, informational apathy is nothing similar to obfuscating the facts. Also, there is a huge difference between perceived and real "need to know".
        Datadad
      • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

        @Datadad@...
        What is the difference between leaked and stolen? If the documents had to be leaked, then they clearly were not meant for public consumption. This is in turn means they were released without authorization, i.e. stolen. Even so, there are no clear laws under which Julian Assange can be tried since he is not a US citizen and therefore cannot be charged with treason. He also has no responsibility to maintain US secrets, his "virtue" is irrelevant.

        Wikileaks asked the US government for help in hiding sensitive information such as informant names, but no assistance was provided.

        Also, you assert that Assange is an accessory to murder yet no one has provided any proof that any deaths have resulted from the publishing of the leaked cables. And if the leaked cables are akin to Post-It-Notes, then why the big fuss?

        And your last paragraph proves my point. A healthy democracy should not have such high levels of voter apathy. Clearly a large number of Americans don't feel represented and so couldn't give a hoot about who wins an election. A two party state does not a democracy make.
        ebudae9
  • RE: US subpoenas Wikileaks tweets, and why this could affect you

    @choyongpil

    Need we say it again: with Wikileaks, there is no crime there. With this, it is an attempt to scare people into not speaking out or supporting Wikileaks. I don't think that they think all of those people are part of the "Army of Anonymous".
    Lerianis10
  • With all due respect, this seems like an attempt at intimidation

    The fact is that NOTHING that Wikileaks does is illegal, in fact whistleblowing organizations and journalists (of which Mr. Assange and his organization clearly are both) are protected by numerous laws in democratic countries worldwide.
    Lerianis10