February 10, 2011

Hearing Will Cover US Requests For Twitter Information

A US Judge will hear arguments next week over the US government's labors to get Twitter to release personal information on the accounts of three people with ties to whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

The government's efforts to gain access to the Twitter information have been challenged by a number of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The three WikiLeaks supporters under investigation are Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, US computer researcher Jacob Appelbaum, and Rop Gonggrijp, a Dutch volunteer for WikiLeaks.

Attorneys for the three supporters, as well as the EFF and ACLU, have been pushing for an overturn of the court order the government obtained on December 14 forcing Twitter to hand over the personal account information.

The court order was confidential, but a judge unsealed it giving Twitter time to notify the users giving them a chance to appeal the decision.

"Twitter is a publication and communication service, so the information sought by the government relates to what these individuals said and where they were when they said it," EFF legal director Cindy Cohn told AFP.

"It is especially troubling since the request seeks information about all statements made by these people, regardless of whether their speech relates to WikiLeaks," she said.

Jonsdottir, who recently distanced herself from the whistleblower site, is an active promoter of freedom of information and a member of the Icelandic parliament's foreign affairs committee.

The US Department of Justice has been seeking a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks, which has published hundreds of thousands of confidential US military documents and diplomatic cables over the past year or more.

The appeals hearing is scheduled for February 15 in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, according to court documents unsealed on Tuesday.


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