Police who arrested a man for using Twitter to warn protesters of police deployments during the recent G20 protests have been accused of violating his human rights.
Pittsburgh police arrested Elliot Madison, 41, for allegedly using Twitter to direct unlawful protesters and other people involved in criminal acts to avoid arrest and to inform them of police movements and actions, according to a Reuters report.
Madison was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of communication facility and possessing instruments of crime, namely telecommunications equipment, Reuters said.
Madison's lawyer Martin Stolar told Reuters this was "the most unique application of the criminal law to the use of Twitter" he had ever seen. "Essentially, we have Elliot accused of taking publicly available information and giving it to another person in the public and then being charged with a crime for doing so. I am missing something here."
Laura DeNardis, executive director of Yale Law School's Information Society Project, said repressive countries could use the incident to crack down on technologies.
"They might cite this as a justification for thwarting free speech in even more direct ways and for cracking down in cases like we saw in the Iranian election protests. To me this seems like a double standard," she said.
Vic Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said, "The same conduct [by police] in Iran or China would be called human rights violations, whereas here it's called necessary crime control. It is a real double standard.
"In this age of instant media coverage it has the potential to chill live reporting. [Madison was] just rebroadcasting information that is otherwise publicly available - not too different from what the media were doing."