HARRISBURG, Pa. — An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer said yesterday that his organization is helping two anonymous Twitter users fight an effort by prosecutors to unmask them after they tweeted criticism of a Pennsylvania attorney general who is running for governor.
ACLU attorney Vic Walczak said he will ask a judge to throw out a subpoena seeking the identities of the two Twitter users, “bfbarbie’’ and “CasablancaPA,’’ if an agreement with Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office can’t be worked out.
Walczak said the subpoena by a statewide investigative grand jury is an unconstitutional retaliation that violates First Amendment free speech protections.
“It’s a prized American right to criticize government officials, and to do so anonymously,’’ Walczak said.
The grand jury on May 6 subpoenaed the identities and other information about the two users from Twitter Inc. Corbett’s office has been using the highly secretive grand jury process for the past several years to look into allegations that government resources and legislative employees have been illegally used to run political campaigns.
Twitter attorney Timothy Yip issued a statement that the company discloses user information only under “limited circumstances.’’
If the company believes it is legal to do so, Twitter notifies users whenever it receives requests for their information that it believes it is obligated to share, Yip said.
“This policy is designed for maximum transparency and gives users an opportunity to object,’’ he said.