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Should Twitter Comply with NYPD?

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Right now, the story is gaining momentum online. Someone on Twitter has threatened to launch an “Aurora style” shooting at Mike Tyson’s one-man show in New York City (of course, the person is referring to the devastating shooting in Aurora, Colorado which occurred on the opening day of The Dark Knight Rises and resulted in twelve deaths). Law enforcement has asked Twitter for the user information of the person who sent the tweet–and Twitter won’t comply.

According to ABC News, the first tweet was sent August 1 and read:

This s**t ain’t no joke yo I’m serious people are gonna die just like in aurora.

When someone on Twitter contacted the potential shooter on August 3 to ask if he had changed his mind, he tweeted back:

no I had last minute plans and I’m in Florida rite now but it’ll happen I promise I’m just finishing up my hit list.

Could this be nothing? Just someone with no sense of what is appropriate to joke about and what is not? Indeed. But, is Twitter taking privacy too seriously and not paying attention to the context that shapes things?

It was just days ago that Guy Adams had his account suspended for tweeting the corporate email address of an NBC executive, saying it violated that person’s privacy (the suspension was later overturned and the email was published on at least one website, so it wasn’t actually private). I get that Twitter wants to protect privacy. But, when maintaining that privacy can result in deaths, I say throw it out the window.

I love Twitter and I use it daily. If Twitter amended its Terms of Service to say that the minute a user tweets a threat of any kind, they are not longer covered by privacy laws, I’d gladly accept that revision to the TOS. Because, as a law abiding citizen who never intends to threaten people, I have no problem with that.

However, I know many of you are going to play the free speech card and I’m all about being able to say what you want. But doesn’t a tweet that threatens to kill people fall into the same category as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater? Do you want people like this guy to be protected by privacy clauses? Would you gladly relinquish a little bit of privacy for the common good?

Let’s hear what you think! Should Twitter cooperate with the New York Police Department to potentially avoid another mass shooting in America?

Amber Avines blogs at Words Done Write and runs a successful communications consultancy in Los Angeles. You can connect with Amber on Twitter at @wordsdonewrite.


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6
  • danielmclark

    Twitter should give up the info. This is a case-by-case thing, nobody is suggesting that law enforcement should have the right to subpoena information all willy-nilly… they’ve asked and Twitter should do the right thing and voluntarily hand over the info. If the police investigate and find nothing, great. If they stop someone who really intends to murder a bunch of people, even better. If this guy follows through and kills 10, 20, 30 people… Twitter is going to have a *really* hard time defending a decision to hold the info back.
     
    Anonymity is overrated anyway. (Yes, I’m serious.)

  • danielmclark

    Twitter should give up the info. This is a case-by-case thing, nobody is suggesting that law enforcement should have the right to subpoena information all willy-nilly… they’ve asked and Twitter should do the right thing and voluntarily hand over the info. If the police investigate and find nothing, great. If they stop someone who really intends to murder a bunch of people, even better. If this guy follows through and kills 10, 20, 30 people… Twitter is going to have a *really* hard time defending a decision to hold the info back.
     
    Anonymity is overrated anyway. (Yes, I’m serious.)
     

  • blogworld

    This is a no brainer. I saw the news this morning and couldn’t believe they weren’t complying with the request and giving some lame ass answer.
     
    If this person ends up killing people and Twitter hasn’t cooperated, blood will be on their hands.

    • WordsDoneWrite

       @blogworld Can you even imagine? There would be no way to recover from that. Seems like you could almost be an accessory to the crime and the defendant in all those civil suits.

  • sandratatum6

    Nice experience shared. Its not less than an interview. Great way of posting such good and informative stuff.
     
    http://www.sense2.com.au/

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