DOCUMENT: Internet, Crime

Indicted Man Asks Judge To Lift Twitter Ban

Accused "Anonymous" member decries gagging


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Anonymous Tweets

JANUARY 13--An alleged “Anonymous” member under indictment for participating in an online attack against PayPal wants a federal judge to allow him to use Twitter, arguing that he is unfairly being prohibited from participating in discussions of the 2012 election cycle, including discourse initiated by President Barack Obama, who has recently vowed to personally post tweets to the social networking site.

In a motion filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, Vincent Kershaw argues that bail conditions barring his use of the Internet restrict his “very right to engage in political discourse in this modern era.”

Pictured in the above mug shot, Kershaw contends that since his criminal case will “likely proceed throughout the entirety of the 2012 election cycle including the ongoing presidential campaign,” the Twitter ban prohibits him from “even perusing such critical communications from our own President or engaging in the Twitter Town Halls in any manner.”

Kershaw, who works as a foreman at a Fort Collins landscaping firm, also wants Judge D. Lowell Jensen to allow him to use Internet Relay Chat so that he can participate in “political debate” and “political speech” in IRC chat rooms.

Along with 13 codefendants, Kershaw was named last July in an indictment charging him with conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer. The felony charges carry a combined maximum of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

According to federal prosecutors, the accused “Anonymous” members participated in a coordinated online attack against PayPal that was prompted by the firm’s suspension of Wikileaks’s account. The denial of service attack, dubbed “Operation Avenge Assange,” was triggered after PayPal suspended Wikileaks’s ability to receive donations in the wake of the publication by the group (founded by Julian Assange) of classified Department of State cables.

While Department of Justice lawyers have not yet replied to Kershaw’s Twitter motion, it is likely that they would strongly oppose any relaxation on his online access. Especially since organizing efforts by “Anonymous” have relied on Twitter and other social networking sites. Additionally, members of the shadowy “hacktivist” group have been known to use IRC to plot various actions. (3 pages)