Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.
An anonymous Twitter user has been tweeting death threats on the platform since May, and now after a series of warnings, including an Aurora-style massacre, NY Mag reports that Twitter has decided to withhold information from the NYPD to protect the user’s privacy. Update: More details have been added at the bottom of this post.
@shannamartella like i said you on my hit list too. This shit ain’t no joke yo I’m serious people are gonna die just like in aurora
— Anonymous Celebrity (@obamasmistress) August 2, 2012
Twitter has to tread extremely carefully on this one, as it has recently received criticism for over-policing its platform. The user, “Anonymous Celebrity,” has made a number of direct death threats at celebrities and threatened to shoot up a theater in NY.
According to the Post and NY Mag, “The NYPD was denied in its initial request for information, but is coming back today with a subpoena.”
Twitter explained its decision to withold information about the user to NY Mag:
We appreciate the timeliness and sensitivity of this matter, and have reviewed the reported Twitter account. While we do invoke emergency-disclosure procedures when it appears that a threat is present, specific and immediate, this does not appear to fall under those strict parameters as per our policies.
This may just be a worthless Internet troll trying to upset people and attract attention. Still, with safety on the line, I am glad to not be in Twitter’s shoes right now. Check back for updates.
Update: CNN reports that Twitter has provided information to the police, following the usual subpoena process. In many ways, it was a good sign that Twitter wasn’t so eager to hand over user details to the authorities, but the specific nature of these threats (aka a NY movie theater murder threat following Aurora) could have made this a horrible situation for everyone had anything actually happened.
These initial events followed directly after the temporary suspension of a journalist that had criticized NBC’s Olympics coverage. Had Twitter shown eagerness to comply without moving through the standard legal process, it could have caused even more protest and worry, as the service has been celebrated in the past as a platform supportive of free speech.
Featured image by rollingrck
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