Twitter Promises to ‘Protect the Safety of Any Person,’ but Will It Hand Over Taliban Info?

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In January, Wired noted that “Twitter beta-tested a spine.”

During the height of the WikiLeaks bruhaha, the U.S. government slapped the company with a court order, demanding user information of a few of the key WikiLeaks conspirators, including Pfc. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. Instead of coughing up the information (mainly e-mail & IP addresses) without complaint, Twitter challenged the order. It seemed like a noble stance, a little audacious even. Popular tech companies who stick up for their users send the web-o-sphere into a fist-pumping frenzy as they Fight The Man, man. And Twitter had just joined the resistance. They won’t let the U.S. government just take their users information. No way.

So what happens when those users are terrorists?

Twitter’s policy states that they’ll notify a user before responding to a subpoena unless a gag order prohibiting notification is in place, which was the case with WikiLeaks in January. And they did it anyway.

Now that it seems like at a Taliban member account has been discovered on the site, will Twitter stand its ground on user rights? What responsibilities do companies have to join the fight against terrorism, if any? The site’s privacy policy states that the company will disclose user information if they believe that “it is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation or legal request; to protect the safety of any person; to address fraud, security or technical issues; or to protect Twitter’s rights or property.”

Will Twitter ever become CIA informants? My guess is no, but this saga will get interesting if they can help track down a terrorist or two. Though seeing how easy it is to fake or mask an IP address, the information linked to the account would most likely be a proxy. Still, we’ll want to wait and see if that spine has stuck around.

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