Judge Rules that Tweets Are Public Speech

A judge has ruled that an Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets must be turned over. Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr. said that tweets are not protected as private speech; rather, they are considered public comments. The judge wrote:

"The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts. What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you."

The judge also wrote, "If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy."

Occupy Brooklyn

The decision came out of a court case that subpoenaed the protestor's deleted tweets. Both the protestor and Twitter tried to block to subpoena. Twitter issued a statement about the decision, which included this excerpt: 

"Twitter's terms of service have long made it absolutely clear that its users own their content. We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights."

Twitter also published its first "Transparency Report," showing the number of government requests for user information and what percentage of those requests were fulfilled. 

Image source. (Protestors arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in October.)

Discussion Starters: 

  • Does the judge's decision surprise you? Why or why not? 
  • What are the implications of this decision to company communicators? To you personally?