A lawyer for Malcolm Harris, 23, who was arrested along with 700 protesters on the Brooklyn bridge last October, filed a motion on Monday against the subpoena, which demanded the release of all of his tweets over a three-month period.
Harris – a writer whose Twitter bio reads "Real stories, callous revolutionary fervor, trickery" – is known in the Occupy movement as the trickster behind false claim that Radiohead were going to hold a concert at Zuccotti Park in New York.
Martin Stolar, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, said the use of a subpoena over a Twitter account was unprecedented, improper and an abuse of process.
"There is simply no justification for seeking such a broad swath of electronic data as part of prosecuting a minor charge related to one event on a discreet date," Stolar said. "This is yet another example of the City of New York overstepping the boundaries of the law in order to chill the legitimate political expression of critics of government policies."
Stolar said he was seeking to quash the subpoena on several grounds. He claims it did not comply with federal laws governing requests for information from electronic communication devices and had also failed to comply with procedures related to delivering a subpoena outside New York State.
The subpoena, issued to Twitter on January 26 by New York district attorney Cyrus Vance, demanded "any and all user information as well as any and all tweets posted for the period of 9/15/2011 – 12/31/2011", associated with @destructuremal, Harris's Twitter account.
Twitter has agreed not to comply with the subpoena until the outcome is decided, said Stolar, who added that he had not been told what the DA was looking for.
"My guess is they are looking for some form of incriminating statement," he said. "Three and a half months of this guy's tweets and personal records – and for what, to go fishing?"
Harris, who was charged with disorderly conduct, is one of hundreds of Occupy-related defendants whose cases are at various stages in the court system.
When he received a copy of the subpoena from Twitter, his response was to post it on Twitter.
"When you get an email from Twitter Legal, you assume it's a phishing scam, trying to get your password," Harris said. "It turned out that it is a phishing scam, but it's from the prosecutors."