Monday, 30 May 2011

The UK's The Telegraph is reporting an important case involving Twitter releasing details of some of its accounts to a UK-based plaintiff on the order of the Superior Court of California in the San Mateo County.

Twitter has released the name, address, email address, telephone number and geographical location of the users behind five accounts. Twitter says it notified the defendant and that he declined to contest the order. Zee, a blogger at The Next Web, says that this is "key".

South Tyneside, a local authority in the northeast of England, hired a US law firm, McDermott Will & Emery, and filed a complaint in California in an attempt to uncover the identity of a person or persons calling himself (or themselves) "Mr Monkey".

Mark Stephens, a leading media lawyer who has represented Julian Assange, said it was inappropriate for a local authority to bring a suit in this manner. But the council through a spokesperson said it had a duty of care to protect its employees.

David Potts, a former Conservative leader who now serves as an Independent councillor said some of the claims made on the blog were "disgusting". Potts is one of those claiming defamation. The other people claiming defamation are the council's Labour leader Iain Malcolm, Labour councillor Anne Walsh, and Rick O'Farrell, the council's head of enterprise and regeneration.

According to the BBC:
Mr Potts said: "This is a deeply tawdry, perverted and seedy little blog that has been in existence for quite a while.
"It's no longer active, as I understand, but the information is still on the internet for all to see.
"This was a blog that didn't just affect councillors; it also affected council officers.
"We have a duty of care, as any employer does whether public or private, to defend not only our commercial interests, but also the interests of our employees.
"That's why we took the action, that's why we're pursuing it so aggressively, and I have no doubt that we will get there, and we will win.
"There have been many, many disgusting claims, which I won't repeat in order to protect my family and friends - allegations of corruption, sexual deviancy, of drug use."
The most recent post on the blog is dated 30 July 2009. It gives notice to readers that "From midnight tonight Mr Monkey will no longer be posting any new material on his blog".

Zee at The Next Web says that "there is a time wherein the person served with the subpoena, [Ahmed Khan, a UK council whistleblower,] in this case, can contest it.  He chose not to, so the subpoena request proceeded, Khan waived his right, and Twitter revealed the information.  If Khan had chosen not to waive his right, it would then be for the claimant [Tyneside Council], to convince the court to grant an order compelling Twitter to disclose the details. And for Khan to convince the Court otherwise".

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