Malcolm Harris, a 23-year-old Occupy Wall Street protestor and the 2011 Most Loathsome Gawker Character behind that Radiohead prank, is currently fighting a subpoena for data from his Twitter account by the Manhattan District Attorney. That includes a few ill-fated messages we exchanged with Harris last fall.
On October 1st, Harris was arrested along with 700 Occupy Wall Street protestors for blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and charged with disorderly conduct. Now, the Manhattan DA has subpoenaed "any and all user information, including email address, as well as any and all tweets posted" to his account, @destructuremal, from September 15th to December 31st, 2011. According to the New York Times, the DA asked Twitter not to notify Harris but the company nicely did not comply.
When reached by phone today, Harris said he was baffled by the breadth of the material sought. The Occupy Wall Street protest didn't even start until September 17th.
"I have no idea what they're looking for. Zero idea," he said. "It's fucking Twitter. I don't commit crimes on Twitter."
Harris' lawyer just filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that the breadth of information suggested the DA was using it to conduct a surreptitious investigation, rather than just looking for evidence in Harris' existing case. (The DA's office hasn't said what they're looking for.)
"This is the legal equivalent of busting a party with loud noise and demanding my phone records for 3.5 months to see if I helped plan it," Harris tweeted recently.
Harris may not commit crimes on Twitter, but he did use the site's direct message function to trick me, on September 30th, into believing Radiohead was performing an impromptu show for Occupy Wall Street protesters down in Zuccotti Park. Harris, who writes for the New Inquiry magazine, was at the time a blogger for the radical journal Jacobin. He told me he'd heard the story about Radiohead, but his editor wouldn't allow him to print it.
Here are the two twitter messages Harris sent me the morning September 30th, which would likely be released to the DA under the subpoena.
Art+Culture committee will announce at Noon that Radiohead is the 4pm musical guest, my [editor] won't let me run it cuz band doesn't want media
Whereas I don't give a fuck about what Radiohead wants. You didn't hear it from me, though.
I think I responded with some message of thanks, which has been sucked down Twitter's memory hole. Of course, both of Harris' tweets were lies, which he later revealed was a scheme to boost the crowd down at Zuccotti.
Why do prosecutors need my private conversations with Harris from the day before he was hit with a simple disorderly conduct charge? As more of our everyday communications take place on third-parties like Twitter, it's crucial to resist overly-broad intrusions by law enforcement, which is certainly what the DA's move appears to be. It's not just Harris' privacy at stake, but that of anyone who communicated with him—no matter how full of shit he was.