Twitter prepared to reveal user data in gagging order scandal

Social networking site TwitterTwitter’s European head has warned users that it will hand over the details of their accounts if required to do so by the authorities.

The social networking site has taken centre stage in the recent super injunction scandal involving a premier league footballer.

The footballer’s name started circulating on Twitter last week as the person who was alleged to have had an extra-marital affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas. Lawyers for the footballer have contacted the social networking site, which is based in California, apparently in an attempt to obtain identifying details about the users who breached the injunction.

Twitter’s head of European operations, Tony Wang, surprised users by signalling that the company may be prepared to reveal their identities to the courts. Without commenting on the specific case involving Imogen Thomas and the footballer, he said: “Platforms have a responsibility, not to defend that user but to protect that user’s right to defend him or herself.

“If we’re legally required to turn over user information, to the extent that we can, we want to notify the user involved, let them know and let them exercise their rights under their own jurisdiction.”

Social networking sites are by definition user-driven: is Twitter biting the hand that feeds it, by generating bad will and mistrust, not just among the 75,000 users that named the footballer but the other users as well? A statement from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales implies this could be the case. He told the BBC: “I do view it to being similar to the Chinese situation where they also cover up misdeeds of high ranking people.”

Mr. Wales also warned that the U.S. was likely to take a dim view of any requests to reveal user data for breaching celebrity super injunctions: “The US is going to be absolutely inflexible on this point. [Freedom of speech] is in the constitution.

“I think that puts intergovernmental communication and co-operation on this issue into a different light, which is, there’s not a whole lot to co-operate on.”