Boston PD's bizarre Occupy subpoena to Twitter

A reader writes, "Boston PD subpoenas Twitter for info on users tweeting about Occupy Boston; they say it relates to a 'criminal investigation'. Also notice their ignorance when asking for account info on tags such as '#occupyboston'. Smart cookies over there."

Note that they're also looking for IP addresses for Guido Fawkes, a well-known, right-leaning British blogger (real name Paul Staines) who -- as far as I know -- has nothing to do with Boston (let alone Occupy Boston). My guess is that they've somehow mistaken Guido Fawkes for some kind of superdistributor of Guy Fawkes masks or similar (the historical Guy Fawkes did adopt the name Guido while fighting in Spain in the the 16th cen), which is to say that they're not just on a fishing expedition, they're on a fishing expedition that's grounded in profound ignorance.

And yup, they don't know the difference between a hashtag and an account.

Subpeona on @p0isAn0n @OccupyBoston #BostonPD #d0xcak3


  1. Well, wait, it DOES say “accounts associated with the following information,” by which I would assume means “anybody who ever tweeted the hashtag #BostonPD” right?  Or, I don’t know, they clearly are unable to understand what they’re doing.  Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll get in touch with the corporations that helped Iran et al oppress their citizens soon enough.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Cory, I’m a die-hard fan, but I think you’re goin’ off half-cocked again. The subpeona is definitely awkwardly phrased — and it’s not like the BPD doesn’t have a history of COUGHCOUGHMOONINITES humiliating themselves this way. But I think the, um, vampire narwhal has raised a good point. “Give us all information *pertaining* to these hashtags” is probably what they’re asking for, and while that’s naive and unnecessary in its own ways, it’s not quite the Keystone Kops behavior I was hoping for in this story. :)

      1. I hope Twitter complies…then they can waste their time searching for (probably nonexistent) needles in the haystack. Here’s hoping 1000’s of twitter users just start using these tags and IDs at random in their tweets.

  2. im curious to know if twitter will comply . and by saying 
    “accounts associated with the following information,” that could mean all ips of followers and friends 

  3. I wonder if they are thinking about a subpoena on my e mail and Twitter accounts. After all, I share 50% of the name, just like Fawkes…

  4. #BostonPD

    whoops, I just got on the subpoena list. 

    There’s a great “I am Spartacus” moment waiting to happen here.

    1. Not to be pedantic, but you’d need to get into a time machine and travel back to dec 8 – dec 13, 2011 and then tweet that hash tag.

  5. Oh please give them everything they asked for to the letter.
    It would be nice to see them buried in documentation that they have to dig through.
    Sadly it really is the only way they will ever learn about the internet and how it works.
    I’d rather they have to sift through everything they asked for then keep answering emails from Nigerian Princes who want to make them rich, or heading to LemonParty because life gave them lemons…

    1. Their request is so unspecific that I thought the same thing. 

      They must have no idea whatsoever how anything in this day and age related to information works.
      It would be fun to see pics of the delivery trucks arriving at the DA’s office, surrounded with additional signs with “x trees died to fulfill this subpoena”.

      1. Of course, nothing in the request states that the information must be in paper form — if anything, taking that route would be the choice of the information provider trying to be as unwillingly cooperative as possible.

    2. I sometimes suspect that the low-level guys that are told to make these sorts of requests are screwing them up on purpose. 

      In other words, we might be seeing a real-life example of a Wally fulfilling a PHB’s request.

  6. Is there not media in Boston that can pick up on this, do a report at the 6 o’clock , interview the Mayor, expose this stupidness? 

    Almost like the BPD isn’t smart enough to deal with ‘modern’ issues.  Surprised they didn’t pick a ‘Mick from the docks and rough him up, just to show who’s boss.

  7. I don’t use Twitter so I’m not exactly sure what “trending”, nor “#” before a word, which you’ve called a “hashtag, means”, but few people have ever called me stupid.

    1. true. you’ve got every right in the world to ignore what goes on with twitter. 99.99999% of what goes on there is completely meaningless (at best). 

      on the other hand, if twitter is somehow pertinent to your *police investigation* and you still haven’t done your homework, people are going to talk. data is only meaningful if you’re aware of the context in which it exists.

      1. Yes. This kind of as if in one those police procedure tv shows the detective didn’t care about how the victim was killed, or considered everyone the victim ever met since childhood as a suspect.  

    2. FWIW, here’s a primer on that.

      Trending means that the topic or hashtag is being very widely discussed, at a growing rate. (The “growing rate” part is to keep topics that are being very widely discussed at a constant rate from filling up the trending topics – otherwise, Justin Beiber would permanently be the #1 trending topic.)

      Hashtags are used to tag a tweet as discussing a certain topic – so, because this article is discussing Boston PD, someone tweeting about it may use #BostonPD in a tweet about this article.

      So, what the Boston PD is asking for is all subscriber information that Twitter has for any user that tweeted using the #BostonPD or #d0xcak3 hashtags between December 8 and December 13.

      1. Technically, they’re asking for all subscriber information ASSOCIATED with it. 

        Which, depending on your definition, could also include any person who had the hash tag tweeted on their friends list. 

  8. “…for the account or accounts associated with the following information” makes it sound as if the information requester doesn’t even know the significance of the ampersand and pound sign.

    That could be because the terms “hashtag” and “twitter handle” haven’t yet obtained legal meaning as technical terms, such as “facsimile” has, or it could just mean that the requester is clueless.

      1. Darn right. It fell out of my brain to make room for the difference between leekspinners and nyan cat.

  9. Just goes to prove, yet again, that the more ‘intelligent’ a person is, the less ‘smart’ they are; the inverse square law clearly applying to intelligence/common sense.

  10. While we are on the subject of twitter noobs, can anyone recommend a useful twitter tutorial? I have dipped my digital digits in very cautiously into the twitterverse, and I am frankly stumped. Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time with it, but if anyone could point me in the right direction I would be most appreciative.

    1. Regardless of the point that it’s hard to classify what does and doesn’t count as an official announcement by Anon…given it’s poorly written nature and misspellings I would hesitate referring to this as an “official” announcement.

      It makes one or two good points but for the most part it rambles.

      1. We’re talking about Anon here. Due to how that movement works, every “press release” put out by anyone that calls themselves an anon is as official as one can be, including one that says “DISREGARD THAT LAST PRESS RELEASE, I SUCK COCKS” or similar.

      2. I was unsure if you were talking about the Anon response or the subpoena when it came to misspellings.

      3. I wonder if they realize that nobody who matters is going to take them seriously when their response appears to have been written by a 10 year old.

        “this subpoena is illegal do to the fact that”

        Done reading, and it’s only the second sentence.

  11. Can you say “Chilling effect upon Free Speech?”
    I knew you could…

    Its time from the protesters to start (non-violently) targeting the Police and their infrastructure. Our “Public Safety” departments are clearly acting outside of the bounds of the Powers we have Granted to them, and they are destructive to the interests of the People. It is our responsibility to change this system and end its abuses.

      1. That works for some individuals.
        I prefer to speak my mind and if I need the AK I keep next to the bed one night at 3am… well that’s just that, hope I die well.

        But most people fear the implied threat of imprisonment at the hands of men who would gladly hurt or kill them for making unwelcome noise.
        This request for information patently violates to any sane reading of the very charters Granting them and Boston’s various governing bodies Power.
        Its our duty to stop the usurpation of power, for if we do not then goon-squads might very well round-up Americans for speaking their minds.

  12. Can anyone comment on the law cited in the warrant: TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 121 > § 2703 ?  it’s on Cornell’s web site.  It seems this demand exposes the law which nullifies itself:  iIuc, 2703 is the law that mandates a warrant in order for disclosure, no?  Meaning a judge has to look at it?  Where is the warrant?  btw ianal, and if i’m wrong dtisc.

    Emphasis mine:
    A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communication service of the contents of a wire or electronic communication, that is in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for one hundred and eighty days or less, only pursuant to a warrant issued using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (or, in the case of a State court, issued using State warrant procedures) by a court of competent jurisdiction

  13. if i received this i’d have to report Ip address’s like etc. just to see how long they investigate their own local network. Imagine the ignorant cops horror as he realizes his home pc has an ip similar to that. lulz

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