Whose Tweets? Our Tweets!

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Occupy Wall Street’s media corporation demanded in court that a longtime member pay the company $500,000 for “hijacking” its Twitter account during a heated argument about Israel’s war in Gaza.
     OWS Media Group, registered in New York as a non-charitable, nonprofit corporation, also wants a judge to forbid activist Justin Wedes from using @OccupyWallStNYC to reach its more than 177,000 followers.
     The lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court came on the third anniversary of the start of the global protest movement, which began on Sept. 17, 2001.
     Wedes, one of the earliest and most prominent members of the group, fell out of favor with some of its members for trying to stop Twitter administrators from accusing Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza this summer.
     Wedes said the word undermined Occupy’s credibility.
     By both sides’ estimates, Israel’s attacks on Hamas this summer killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the 1.8 million people living in the Gaza Strip had a 2.91 percent population growth this year.
     On Aug. 8, one month into the Gaza conflict, Wedes “changed the account password on the Twitter account,” and elbowed out more than a dozen other administrators from using it, according to the complaint.
     Thirteen administrators wrote about their falling-out with Wedes in a blog post that branded him “The Wolf of Occupy Wall Street.”
     They signed the statement with their Twitter handles as “members of the @OccupyWallStNYC Tweetboat collective.”
     The lawsuit leaves out these details, except to say that Wedes was “unhappy with some of the content of the speech that was being disseminated from the Twitter account.”
     The group’s attorney, Thomas Hillgardner, an Occupier himself who walked with Wedes from Times Square to Washington Square Park early on in the movement, said in a telephone interview that he left out the specifics of the in-fighting intentionally.
     “That’s only irrelevant drama,” Hillgardner said. He said the lawsuit is a “claim about property.”
     The lawsuit alleges conversion and trespass to chattels, and asks for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. It also provides a history of how Occupy’s media structure got started.
     Micah White, a former editor of the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine AdBusters, founded the Twitter feed and passed it on to documentary filmmaker Marisa Holmes, who signed the complaint as a director of OWS Media Group.
     “Since the time that Holmes accepted AdBusters transfer to her of the Twitter account, she has endeavored to see that it was utilized in an egalitarian manner as one of the voice pieces of the Occupy Wall Street movement,” the complaint states. “To that end she worked with other loosely organized groups, including ‘Global Revolution TV,’ ‘OccupyNYC,’ ‘Tweetboat’ and the ‘OWS Media Working Group,’ to broadcast many messages from many different groups and individuals using the Twitter account.”
     Hillgardner told Courthouse News the Twitter account is a “grand collective experiment.”
     “As a tool for the communication of ideas, ideals, and the vision of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Twitter account represents several years of irreplaceable work by Holmes, Global Revolution TV, OccupyNYC, the OWS Media Working Group, the Tweetboat collective, and others building the audience of the Twitter account,” the complaint states.
     Wedes has not yet been served with the lawsuit. He is believed to be in Michigan, protesting Detroit’s decision to shut off water to residents with unpaid bills, Hillgardner said.
     @JustinWedes and @OccupyWallStreetNYC did not respond to a request for comment.

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