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NYPD to subpoena Twitter over theater threat

Posted at 3:25 PM, Aug 07, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-07 15:25:15-04

By Leigh Remizowski

NEW YORK (CNN) — The NYPD says it plans to subpoena Twitter to reveal the identity of a user who claimed on the social networking site to be planning an attack on a Broadway theater.

“We take the threat seriously, especially in light of recent attacks in Wisconsin and Colorado,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne.

Police requested the information from Twitter on Saturday, but were turned down, Browne said.

Twitter did not respond to multiple CNN requests for comment.

Authorities say the user apparently posted a threat about an attack at the Longacre Theater in midtown Manhattan, where Mike Tyson, 46, is currently performing his one-man show, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” a Broadway production that centers on the former boxing champion’s well-publicized life.

Authorities would not disclose additional information about the perceived threat, but have bolstered security at the theater, as well as other public areas across New York in the wake of two deadly shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin.

Authorities’ quest this week for personal user information highlights a growing conundrum for companies in the Internet-age, when privacy concerns are pitted against those of public safety.

“These (subpoenas) are becoming more and more common,” said Ethan Wall, a Miami-based intellectual property attorney. “And courts are granting law enforcement pretty big latitude when it comes to getting Twitter records with subpoenas.”

Though social media companies often strive to garner user confidence by securing their private information, “when it comes to imminent physical harm, the First Amendment has much less protection,” he said.

Last month, Twitter issued its first online “Twitter Transparency Report,” which revealed that the firm had received 679 information requests from the government in the first half of 2012.

The company provided some or all of the information for 75% of those requests, it said.

The report, which Twitter said it plans to publish twice a year, was compiled to serve “as an important reminder of the need to hold governments accountable, especially on behalf of those who may not have a chance to do so themselves.”

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