SCHENECTADY — Twitter is seeking the dismissal of a Niskayuna woman’s court efforts to learn the source of harassing tweets on the social media giant’s worldwide platform.
Twitter argues it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New York, the complainant has not demonstrated her case of action has merit, the demand for information violates the federal Stored Communications Act, and the petition is overly broad.
Caroline McGraw, a 2018 graduate of Niskayuna High School and the daughter of former Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw, is trying to identify the person or persons behind @niskyfails, a Twitter account she says has defamed her.
She sued Twitter in state Supreme Court in April, seeking to force Twitter to hand over log data, direct messages, tweets, email addresses or cell phone numbers and the name or names of people running the @niskyfails account so that she could pursue a libel action.
In a May 13 motion to dismiss, Twitter’s attorney Jeffrey Vanacore writes:
- McGraw’s case is “at its core an attempt to silence a critic of local politicians and chill the speech of any others wishing to comment on issues in the community.”
- She lacks standing to assert claims based on statements about her mother’s conduct.
- The statements that mention McGraw are not actionable because they are opinion accompanied by the facts on which they are based, and therefore protected by the First Amendment.
- A public figure such as McGraw’s mother would need to show reckless disregard for the truth to establish a cause of action. McGraw may not be a public figure like her mother but the tweets with which she takes offense describe issues of public concern and are protected by the First Amendment.
Vanacore asks that if Judge Mark Powers does not dismiss the case outright, he limit the discovery McGraw seeks to make to basic subscriber information, rather than grant the “fishing expedition” for “irrelevant information” such as direct messages and tweets.
Asked for comment, McGraw’s attorney, Matthew Tully, offered a detailed rebuttal on the legal merits of Twitter’s legal motion, and why he thinks it should be rejected.
He also raised the possibility of physical danger to McGraw, on the chance that the anonymous critic is something other than the legions of trolls who lurk on social media.
“It is very unfortunate that Twitter is causing my client to suffer considerable legal expenses to merely learn the names of people behind what Twitter seems to concede is, at a minimum, a caustic critic of my client’s mother,” Tully told The Daily Gazette via email.
“Without learning who this person is, we will never know the motives of the person, and we cannot determine if this person poses a criminal threat to my client or her family. Should something physically happen to my client or her family, the moral responsibility for that injury should in my opinion be on Twitter. The lesson learned for your readers is beware of what you read on social media because if Twitter has its way, you may continue to read a lot of disinformation disguised by anonymous users to be facts that are nonactionable opinions with no basis in fact.”