Twitter’s Response to WikiLeaks Subpoena

Everyone’s naturally tweeting about it: Twitter successfully fought to make public government subpoenas for information about Wikileaks supporters. When the ruled for Wikileaks and unsealed the subpoenas, the Wikileaks supporters then were informed of the subpoenas and could fight them on their own.
Considering Wikileaks is making a sweeping transparency argument accusing governments of too much secrecy, appending gag orders to these subpoenas is almost ironic.
Ryan Singel at Wired has perhaps the best piece on the matter. He argues that Twitter’s response should be the industry norm. His most memorable line is that Twitter “beta-tested” a new feature: a spine.
Fast Company, meanwhile, credits Twitter’s actions to the deft brilliance of its general counsel.
I can’t help but think it’s a little sad that this act today requires heroism. Twitter was merely trying to follow the law by challenging inappropriate gag orders. But the act might require courage. Qwest claimed it was punished by the government for refusing to cooperate with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping, while AT&T and Verizon received retroactive immunity for breaking the law at government direction.
One hopes that Twitter doesn’t face some punishment for merely asking the judge to rule on the law here. If Twitter is punished somehow, we could guess what the industry norm may become.
At the same time, people are asking questions not just about industry norms but also about what the law and U.S. international policy should be. Next week, on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee is hosting its annual, important, conference on Internet issues. One panel is devoted to this question:

Can the U.S. Continue to Support a Free Global Internet in the Age of Wikileaks, Cyberwar and Rampant Copyright Piracy

I think the answer is yes, depending on how you define a free global Internet. But I’m happy to see this issue debated publicly rather than under gag order.

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