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Twitter Battles Courts Over Who Really Owns “Tweets”

Oli Scarff, Getty Images

When you post a tweet to Twitter, who does it really belong to? Is it still yours, or does it belong to Twitter? That’s the question the courts are trying to answer.

Earlier this year, Twitter was subpoenaed and ordered to hand over all the tweets of a user who was a member of Occupy Wall Street and was accused of plotting crimes with other OWS users. Twitter filed a motion to oppose the court’s order, but was denied. Now, several months later, Twitter is trying again, filing a second motion and trying to prove that the users have complete control over their tweets.

Twitter says that its users own their tweets, and all that personal information. The court says Twitter does, and should hand them over when subpoenaed. This week Twitter has filed an appeal to New York Supreme Court, the second time it’s filed a motion in this case.

Bottom line: Twitter says that it makes it clear in its terms of services that users own their content and they have “a right to fight invalid government requests,” i.e. subpoenas.

Twitter’s appeal argues that users have a property right to the content they post and have a Fourth Amendment privacy right to their accounts. The company says that deleted Tweets are not public, and that Twitter accounts should have the same protection as personal email accounts

Sorry Twitter, but the Internet doesn’t work like that.

There’s a reason Twitter is called SOCIAL media. We should know by now that once you put something on the Internet, it’s not yours anymore. Whatever you decide to put on the web is up for grabs by anyone who wants it, no matter if it’s yours or not. This is especially true with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, where anyone can see everything you post. It’s part of the reason why I harp on being careful what you post online.

In this case, I believe Twitter should hand over the tweets to the courts. These plots were posted on their site, they need to accept some responsibility for this and co-operate with the courts. However, I won’t go as far as to say Twitter is the sole party responsible for the tweets. users need to take responsibility for what they post by begin smart about their posts and not do stupid things like, say, plotting a crime using a site anyone can see.

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