Attorney General Tom Corbett Subpoenaes Twitter To Identify Anonymous Critics

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.

As the subpoena notes, if Twitter failed to attend, a warrant for arrest could be issued and the company could be held liable under penalty of law for Contempt of court.

The account @CasaBlancaPA, whose owner is identified as ‘Signor Ferrari’ (a criminal in the film Casablanca, played by Sydney Greenstreet) on Twitter, links to this blog in the bio section. The blog, hosted on Google’s Blogger service, is dedicated to “exposing the hypocrisy of Tom Corbett” according to its subtitle.

Some choice tweets that may have gotten the @CasaBlancaPA account owner in trouble:

– “Is it wrong to mix campaign work with taxpayer business? Apparently not when Tom Corbett does it bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

– “Corbett erupts at campaign event; security tries to eject questioner #bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

– “Quiz! Who sputters with indignation over failure to recuse from cases involving contributors? #bonusgate #pagovrace” (tweet, blog post)

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed by a former state employee against the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office that alleges public dollars were “illegally paid out to vendors” and contends wrongful termination. However, there have been no charges filed or evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Corbett.

We’re digging further into this.

Update: ‘Ferrari’ writes:

We believe this is more about the blog than the Tweets. We have not received notification of a subpoena to Blogger, so we really don’t know. We are seeking legal representation and plan to ask Twitter not to comply.

Although the subpoena was to appear last week, we believe Twitter asked for additional time because we received notification last night. We believe in the constitutionally-protected right of Americans to criticize public officials anonymously.

Update 2: Timothy Yip, Legal Counsel for Twitter issued this statement:

We protect and do not disclose user information except in limited circumstances. We notify a user, if we believe we are allowed to by law, when we receive any request for their information that we may be required to comply with. This policy is designed for maximum transparency and gives users an opportunity to object.

[scribd id=31583273 key=key-1tr3g4oj1ymur96keuzp mode=list]