It has just become evident that the US Govt has issued a subpoena to Twitter to provide details going back to November 2009 of access, location, IP addresses and tweets on Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and the Icelandic MP, Birgitta Jonsdottir. Ms Jonsdottir has a been a vocal supporter of Wikileaks as well as the sponsor of Icelandic legislation which makes Iceland an international safe haven for journalists. In addition to this, they want access to the details of the Wikileaks Twitter account which has over 600,000 followers. This will no doubt extend to details of tweets associated with the followers to the Wikileaks site.
This is a worrying trend for the social networking sites. If users cannot rely on this medium as a reliable and safe form of free-expression then a sea-change will happen in this significant part of internet activity. Twitter became an important part of communication during the Iranian elections which saw alot of the mainstream media outlets being censored by the government; it allowed the rest of the world to know what was truly developing in that state.
The US Government is clearly taking desperate steps to convict Assange and the Wikileaks organisation. The danger is that in their attempts to win that battle, the wider good of freedom of expression, international communications and the progressive development of the use of the web for social networking may lose out. This will set us all back decades!
To quote, Jonsdottir
“I think I am being given a message, almost like someone breathing in a phone, if Twitter hands over my information – then no ones information is save [sic] with Twitter.”