Earlier this month, someone on Twitter threatened to attack New York's Longacre Theater during a performance of Mike Tyson's new one-man play, writing, "This s**t ain't no joke yo I'm serious people are gonna die just like in aurora." The NYPD immediately requested the user's identity from Twitter but they initially denied the request.
"Twitter turned us down, so we dispatched police to cover the theater while we sought a subpoena to force Twitter to disclose the identity of the account holder," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said in an emailed statement.
Today the NYPD has secured a subpoena, and it appears Twitter is now cooperating. As ABC reports, Twitter was probably in the right to deny the NYPD's initial request.
Following email requests for comment from ABCNews.com, a spokeswoman for Twitter wrote, "We don't have a comment on this." She also sent a link to Twitter's guidelines for law enforcement.
"Twitter evaluates emergency disclosure requests on a case-by-case basis," the guidelines say. "If we receive information that gives us a good faith belief that there is an emergency involving the death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide information necessary to prevent that harm, if we have it."
The guidelines also say that the release of private information "requires a subpoena or court order."
If Twitter were to turn over the user's identity at the first request, it could be liable for any mistake or potential invasion of privacy, according to Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties for Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.
"The law prohibits providers from turning certain information over voluntarily and, if they do, they can be sued," Granick said. "But the government can compel the information from the provider with varying degrees of legal process depending on what the information is. When it's the name associated with the account, the government can get that with just the subpoena."
Basically, it's a good thing that Twitter isn't immediately handing over the private info of every rambling loon online. Far be it from them to ever suspect the NYPD of overstepping their boundaries and infringing on American's rights.
But I guess the real question here is: can't a man just talk about his pigeons on stage in peace? What did Mike Tyson do to deserve this? Aside from the rape conviction and ear biting, I mean.
[Image via AP]