Wikileaks, Twitter and the DOJ: Much Ado About Nothing?

As a follow-up to my previous post: Google and Wikileaks: The Laybrinth Which Leads to Tyranny, Omar Ha-Redeye directed my attention on Twitter to this recent report by the Sydney Morning Herald, which noted a warning issued by @Wikileaks on its Twitter account:

“In a somewhat alarming move to its 637,000 Twitter followers, WikiLeaks warned yesterday they would all be the target of the subpoenaed information.

To which it added shortly afterwards, ‘Too late to unfollow; trick used is to demand the lists, dates and IPs of all who received our twitter messages.”’ [Ed.: Original tweet available here ]

This strikes me as nothing more than US DOJ posturing and prosecutorial grandstanding.

The reality is that many of @Wikileaks’ 635,210 followers do not live in the United States and are otherwise outside the  prosecutorial crosshairs of the US Department of Justice or the long-arm jurisdiction of American courts.  The sheer volume of followers and tweets that have been generated by Wikileaks over the last few months require more than a simple court order. Even if some individuals actually did correspond directly  with Wikileaks on Twitter  via DMs (which is unlikely given that Wikileaks only follows 1 account: @Tweetbackup ), the Order of federal Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan (pdf) is so overly broad in scope, it is rendered meaningless. The order was issued under 18 USC 2703(d) but the devil is in the details. If you’ve ever tried your hand at data mining, you’ll know that Twitter’s real-time updates are very difficult to locate beyond a few months, at best.  The reality is that most Twitter communication is not “communication” at all;  just fleeting conversations, random updates or news links. Move along, nothing to see here.

Besides, doesn’t the Library of Congress already have everybody’s tweets archived already? Oh, you forgot about that, did you?

Some further interesting  links on this developing story:

Wikileaks and Freedom of Internet (via IPrivacy4IT – Clarinette’s blog)

Thoughts on the DOJ wikileaks/twitter court order (via slight paranoia blog-security and privacy analysis by Christopher Soghoian)

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