Police were forced to subpoena the social network after Twitter officials refused to hand over the information to investigators. NYPD officials say they needed it to help identify the person who threatened an attack similar to the recent Colorado shootings.
The New York Times
reports Twitter complied with a court order three days after police made an emergency request for information about an account holder's identity and IP address.
NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne tells the NY Times
, police learned about the ominous threats on Friday, the opening night of the Spike Lee production of "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. NBC New York
says the series of tweets read, "I might just shoot up this theater in new York I know they leave their exit doors unlocked. Ha now I gotta plan it step by step;" "Well ima shoot that theater up tonight just trust me." The Wall Street Journal
says other tweets suggested, "This s--- ain't no joke yo I'm serious people are gonna die just like in aurora." NBC
says on August 3, in response to a comment by someone that they didn't see anything about a shooting on the news, the user tweeted, "I had last minute plans. I'm in Florida rite now but it'll happen i promise I'm just finishing up my hit list." The tweets were referring to the mass shooting at the premiere of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at an Aurora, Colorado theatre that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured.
The threats came from someone using the name obamasmistress but it appears the account has been taken down. Other Twitter users managed to capture some of the followup tweets
though that suggested a long list of celebrities on the "hit list" including; Pippa Middleton (Kate Middleton's sister), Justin Bieber, Perez Hilton and Wendy Williams.
Police increased security at the theatre and issued the request to Twitter. But the Wall Street Journal
says Twitter responded by email, "We appreciate the timeliness and sensitivity of this matter, and have reviewed the reported Twitter account. While we do invoke emergency disclosure procedures when it appears that a threat is present, specific and immediate, this does not appear to fall under those strict parameter as per our policies."
The New York Times
says investigators disagreed and went to the District Attorney to get a subpoena which they received on Monday. “We felt that a threat involving an identified location in the heart of the theater district merited immediate cooperation.”
And Larry Cunningham, the associate dean at St. John’s University School of Law in Queens, agrees with police and tells The Times that Twitter should have cooperated without a court order. “In general, social media outlets do a very good job of cooperating with authorities, but in this case, however, Twitter should have given the information without a court order under their emergency procedures policy. The threats were clear enough.”
Police won't say whether a suspect has been tracked down.
So far Twitter has refused to comment.