(Well, it tried: the DA's office asked for the wrong account!)
On the Friday before Christmas (today), CORRECTION: On December 20, 2011, Twitter revealed to the targets that Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County (Boston) Benjamin Goldberger had subpoenaed their account information in a document dated December 14, 2011. ADA Goldberger asked for:
All available subscriber information, for the account or accounts associated with the following information, including IP address logs for account creation and for the period December 8, 2011 to December 13, 2011.
And then listed the following, including hashtags, not only accounts:
Twitter did the right thing and released the subpoena to the targets. It was then uploaded to Scribd, and is available for download, sharing and viewing here.
Many people associated with Occupy Boston took to Twitter after the release to mock the Boston Police Department and DA Conley's office for asking Twitter to release IP information on not just users but also hashtags, which on Twitter are sort of conversation topic markers and do not have account holders.
But could it be that the ADA is actually asking Twitter for the account and IP information of everyone who has tweeted those hashtags? If so that would be a very serious and expansive request, and suggests a fishing expedition.
(The legitimately funny part of the subpoena is that it got Occupy Boston's Twitter handle wrong. Can we expect another subpeona to correct it?)
At least one person connected to the targets on Twitter assumes that the subpoena is a response to the December 15th publication of personal information on Boston Police officers:
But if the Pastebin document referred to above, containing information on BPD officers, was really first published on December 15, 2011, the Boston Police likely knew the publication was coming or have other reasons to investigate this group, because the subpoena is dated December 14, 2011.
Or maybe there is another explanation altogether? If you know something else to help elucidate the tale of the OB Twitter subpoena, tweet at @ACLU_MASS.
UPDATE: Twitter user @axb21 reminds us that the dates in question under the subpoena, December 8-13, 2011, bracket the eviction of the Occupy Boston encampment at Dewey square, which occured the morning of December 10.
UPDATE II: Citing an ongoing criminal investigation against the targets, the subpoena explicitly asked Twitter not to reveal to them its existence. Twitter, as it has before, did not comply with this non-legally binding request. Instead the company chose to respect its clients, the targeted users, and informed them of the subpoena, giving them a chance to challenge it. Since the Occupy Boston account the ADA asked for was the wrong account, there was only one relevant targeted account.
But if the ADA is asking Twitter to reveal the IP information (including home addresses) of everyone who tweeted the #BostonPD hashtag during and around the time of the raid on Dewey square, that's politically explosive. If true, it means that the ADA is potentially phishing around for the personally identifiable information of the most hardcore Boston Occupiers — those who were tweeting about the raid during and after it occurred. Stay tuned for more on this.
UPDATE III: Read about administrative subpoenas to learn more about how this tool is used during investigations.