Pennsylvania Attorney General Subpoena’s Twitter For Identity Of Anonymous Critics
Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s current Attorney General and, as of last night, the Republican nominee for Governor, has issued a subpoena to Twitter for the identity of two users who have been critical of him:
Tom Corbett, current Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania and Gubernatorial Candidate, has subpoenaed Twitter to appear as a Grand Jury witness to “testify and give evidence regarding alleged violations of the laws of Pennsylvania”.
The subpoena orders Twitter to provide “any and all subscriber information” of the person(s) behind two accounts — @bfbarbie and @CasaBlancaPA — who have been anonymously criticizing the man on the popular micro-sharing service.
According to the subpoena (embedded below), the information that Twitter is ordered to provide includes “name, address, contact information, creation date, creation Internet Protocol address and any and all log in Internet Protocol address”.
A Twitter representative was supposed to appear as a witness before the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigation Grand Jury on Friday, May 14. We’ve asked the company to comment, but a Twitter spokesperson said they don’t comment on legal matters. We’re still waiting to hear back from Corbett’s office.
The subpoena appears to be connected to allegations that Corbett to allegations of improper payments to vendors by the Attorney General’s office and a lawsuit that was filed in 2008.
Among the Tweets that apparently started this:
Update: Eugene Volokh gives this a little more legal perspective:
[T]his is a grand jury subpoena, so presumably the theory is that the subpoenas are relevant to some criminal investigation. My sense is that one should be able to quash such a subpoena as well, if there is no legally sufficient basis for the investigation, or for the conclusion that the information would be relevant to the investigation. Yet that requires us to know what is being investigated. It can’t be an investigation of libel, since Pennsylvania doesn’t have a criminal libel statute. In principle, since some tweets from the relevant twitterers might be read as accusing Corbett of criminal misconduct, the twitterers’ identities might be relevant so they could be asked for further evidence of such misconduct. But I have no reason to think that Corbett is indeed being so investigated.
So this looks like an interesting case; I hope Twitter does move to quash the subpoena, so we can get some better sense of whether the subpoena indeed has a legal basis.
Copy of subpoena below
H/T: Brooklyn Roberts