Top 3 Reasons the Wikileaks Twitter Case Matters for Non-Leakers

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 11, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Finally, we have Wikileaks news that has nothing to do with Julian Assange’s extradition woes.

Today, District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria, Virginia ruled that prosecutors could demand Wikileaks Twitter account information for Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Birgitta Jonsdittir in conjunction with a criminal probe into Wikileaks’ disclosure of classified documents. O’Grady also refused to unseal orders and other court documents relating to the three Wikileakers in the case.

Here are three reasons why this decision should matter to every Internet user:

  1. Orders, Not Subpoenas. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2703, a government entity can get a court order to demand a customer's electronic communications from a service, like Twitter, as part of a law enforcement investigation. Unlike a subpoena, this order does not have to be supported by probable cause. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) maintain that this type of activity is a warrantless search.
  2. No Right to Know. The petitioners only learned about the government's Wikileaks/Twitter order because "Twitter notified the subscribers that prosecutors had obtained a court order for their account information," reports CNET. Similar orders could have been issued to other Internet services in this investigation; we don't know because the court refused to unseal the orders.
  3. It's Not Just the 'Leakers. "When you use the Internet, you entrust your online conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to dozens of companies who host or transfer your data. In light of that technological reality, we are gravely worried by the court's conclusion that records about you that are collected by Internet services like Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Google are fair game for warrantless searches by the government," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

The 'Leakers are expected to appeal the decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, reports Wired.

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