Pennsylvania AG Sought to Anonymously Out Anonymous Critics


In May, reports appeared showing that Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett had issued a subpoena to every New Media Douchebag's favorite social app, Twitter, demanding that the service release the "name, address, contact information, creation date, creation Internet Protocol address and any and all log in Internet Protocol addresses" of two anonymous critics. TechCrunch recently posted some sample tweets from the accounts, which, among other things, note security guards attempting to eject questioners at Corbett events and accuse Corbett of "[mixing] campaign work with taxpayer business."

Now, thanks to TechDirt's Mike Masnick, I see that it's come out that not only did Corbett want Twitter to out two of its users for political speech, he wanted to ensure that Twitter never let those users—or anyone else—know they'd been outed. According to a new report in the Philadelphia Bulletin, "the subpoena of Twitter also contained a cover letter asking Twitter not to disclose the action and, if it planned to do so, to contact a deputy attorney general, so the state could seek a court order to prohibit Twitter from revealing the organization had been subpoenaed." So before telling anyone about the order, they were instructed to tell the AG's office so that the AG could attempt to legally bar them from telling anyone about the order.

The Bulletin report speculates that Corbett wanted the users' identities revealed in order to build support for a case he was prosecuting:

It is thought Mr. Corbett wanted the identities because he believed [one of the anonymous Twitter users] to be Brett Cott, a state House staffer convicted in [a case Corbett was prosecuting]. The prosecutors hoped to show a lack of remorse on the part of Mr. Cott, who was sentenced to up to five years in prison on May 21 for using taxpayer resources for political purposes.

Cott may have been convicted, but that's beside the point; this hardly seems like a compelling reason to demand that Twitter reveal user identities. It does, however, seem like a convenient (and rather thin) excuse for a state official to go after an anonymous online critic simply for publishing material that the official doesn't like.

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  1. Maybe they could hire hundreds of thousands of people to spy on their neighbors and to report if someone explained their opposition to government policies in their own home.

    Wait, that already happened under Wilson.

    1. What’s old is new again! Or something equally depressing.

    2. or the Stasi of E Germany
      GB Rules!

  2. Whatever happened to good old bribery? If you’re gonna be corrupt, stick with the classics.

  3. So the Attorney General was using state resources for political purposes. So he could prosecute someone who had used state resources for political purposes. Politicians really have no shame in their quest for greater power.

    1. “Politicians really have no shame in their quest for greater power.”


  4. I would say that, if the AG wants me to keep their subpoena secret, they should have gotten their court order first.

    Just because having the AG pissed at you is Not Good, I probably would have told them that I planned to release the subpoena and cover letter at some point before the deadline for complying with subpoena, and asked them to make sure that they got my attorney notice of their motion hearing for the court order.

    Which they would never, in a million years, get.

  5. So I asked my girl friends do these jeans make me look fat. Silence deafening!

    about 3 hours ago via Memnoch

    Note to self: come the revolution, have all state AG’s drawn & quartered

    about 6 hours ago via Memnoch

    Saw Sands of Time. Loved it! JG just gorgeous.

    about 1 day ago via Memnoch

  6. Gee which party is the the Atty. General?

    1. A Republican. Who is going to be the awful candidate for governor against the Democrats’ awful candidate.

      1. Well, crap. A d’bag like this is the best Repubs could come up with?

  7. Heck, Why not just have Joe McGinniss move in next door to the guy for research on a book.

  8. Actually, Corbett has plenty of anonymous critics. This one in particular has been reported in the press to likely be Cott who was sentenced. What they don’t tell you is the same accounts were also used to threaten and harass witnesses during trial. Obviously there was enough evidence of wrongdoing for the judge to sign off on the order.

  9. Perhaps Tom Corbett should take a look at the Constitution and realize that speech he doesn’t like is protected and he took an oath to defend that Freedom of Speech. I think that people that want to restrict any speech are in the wrong. Yes, freedom does lead to some bad stuff. You’ve got some offensive religious speech or crazy comments about people on DirtyPhoneBook or political speech that the regime in power finds offensive, but on balance these are all good things in the long run. Without peoples worlds being shaken up somehow, you can’t find greater understanding and have real conversations and debates on issues. Shame on Tom for being motivated by politics (or any other reason obviously) and wanting to restrict Free Speech.

  10. So — if you’re committing a crime, and wish not to have your tweets and twitter ID revealed, be sure to bad-mouth the AG in your tweets. That way you can claim he’s just persecuting you for your criticisms of him, not trying to collect evidence of your crime. Sly!

  11. what a bastard.

    *please don’t release my ip address reason.

  12. Thank you American media for not covering Sam Rohrer, now this douchebag Corbett is going to be our next governor.

  13. We, here in PA had the chance to have a great candidate in Sam Rohrer who serves in the State Legislature. Unfortunately, he does not have the name recognition. So, we are stuck with Crooks R’ US Corbett. What a jerk! Maybe is we can get rid of Corbett, we can write Sam in!

    1. I think Rohrer write-in campaign has less of a chance of succeeding than getting the libertarian party’s Marakay Rogers elected governor. In PA you rarely ever hear the identity of write-in candidates, even if they win precincts. The only time they really ever report write-in candidates is if they win the overall race. I wrote myself in for tax assessor once, a position no one was running for so you had to write-in. Apparently in my precinct I was the only one to write someone in, myself, and I got 100% of the vote but they never published my name.

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