Watch CBS News

San Francisco DA Subpoenas Twitter In Protest Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) -- Social networking giant Twitter has been subpoenaed by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, as prosecutors investigate a violent protest that took place in October.

On October 6th, protesters staged a demonstration in the city's Financial District over United States involvement in Afghanistan. The protest turned violent, with anarchists damaging several business and cars. Police said they found protesters armed with paint grenades, road flares and an ice pick.

Several days after the protest, police identified 20 people as anarchists and arrested them for vandalism and assaults on officers. Among them, Lauren Smith and husband Robert Donohoe.

Prosecutors have issued subpoenas seeking Smith and Donahoe's public tweets, along with their subscriber information, as well as the names of their Twitter followers.

"It's akin to fishing where you're using dynamite to catch fish in the Bay, rather than using a fishing rod trying to catch a single fish," said Josh Davis, Donahoe's attorney.

Davis said he is fighting the subpoenas in court, citing First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as rights of privacy.

District Attorney George Gascon told CBS 5, "I don't think that you have a right to privacy when you're engaged in that type of criminal behavior."

Gascon said he couldn't talk about the specifics of the case, but he said posts on social media are fair game for prosecutors.

"Social media is nothing more than a vehicle of communication between people. It reflects behavior," Gascon said. "When we're investigating a case, we are looking for evidence of behavior that may be connected to a criminal act."

As of Tuesday night, Twitter has not responded to CBS 5's request for comment. A judge is set to decide on the case in January.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.