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In G20 Case, Twitter as "Instrument of a Crime"

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, October 6 2009

EFF has the criminal complaint against Elliot Madison, the Queens man being targeted by the FBI for using Twitter during the G20 protests in Madrid. The document has some fascinating details about how Madison was operating, and how Twitter entered into law enforcement crosshairs. While we saw during the Republican National Convention in Minnesota that Twitter was being used to shape a protest from all the way in Arizona, in this case Madison was just a few miles from the action in the streets of Pittsburgh. Ensconced in Room 238 of the Carefree Inn, Madison and a "co-conspirator" were, say the police:

...observed infront [sic] of personal computers and telecommunication equipment, wearing headphones and microphones, with various maps, contact numbers and police and EMS scanner.

Here's what in particular caught the police's attention:

[T]hey had been communicating with varioous [sic] protesters, and protest groups, both by us [sic] of cellular communications equipment and internet based communications, more commonly known as "twitter". The observed "Twitter" communications were noted to the relevant to the direction of the movement of Protestors, and protest groups, in order to avoid apprehension, and to inform the protestors of the movements and actions of law enforcement in response to the actions of those protestors and protest groups.

Madison, described by his attorney as an anarchist, works with a New York City-based collective that, according to its website, "provides technology services to the radical and progressive communities." His alleged crime in the G20 case?

[T]he defendant did use a telecommunications facility for the purpose of directing/redirecting others in order to avoid apprehension by police after a lawful order to disperse.

Madison faces three specific charges: one count of hindering apprehension or prosecution, one count of criminal use of a communication facility, and finally, one count of possessing instruments of a crime -- including, it seems, a Twitter account. (Photo credit: whatleydude)