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Twitter fights subpoena to out critical Tweeters

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Twitter is resisting a legal demand that it unmask two users who posted comments critical of Pennsylvania's top law enforcement official.

The grand jury subpoena issued early this month by Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett ordered the microblogging site to reveal the identities of @casablancapa and @bfbarbie, according to The New York Times.

The legal maneuver has been attacked by advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Citizen Litigation Group as a violation of Free Speech rights. They say the US Constitution protects an individual's right to engage in anonymous speech, a view that has been upheld in numerous court cases.

Twitter representatives issued a statement that indicated they weren't complying with the order. "We protect and do not disclose user information except in limited circumstances," Twitter Legal Counsel Timothy Yip said.

A spokesman for Corbett said the subpoena was related to a pending criminal prosecution of an individual named Brett Cott, who on Friday was sentenced to 21 to 60 months in prison after being found guilty on three charges in a political scandal known as Bonusgate. Supporters of Cott, who was acquitted on 39 other charges, have argued the case was politically motivated.

The controversy arose the same week attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully defeated a demand that Yahoo! identify the anonymous person who called the chief executive of USA Technologies a "known liar" who believes "humanity exists to be fleeced."

It was unclear if Corbett's office planned to pursue its demands against Twitter now that sentencing has taken place. ®

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