The Slatest

Occupy Wall Street Activists Sue Each Other Over Who Owns the Movement’s Twitter Account

The disputed Twitter account.


The Occupy Wall Street movement’s guiding—if vaguely defined—principle was: Stick up for the little guy—the 99 percent. Sticking it to the proverbial man also seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, three years after the movement’s cultural and political apex, things have gotten a bit complicated for OWS activists. The movement itself may have been leaderless and ownerless by nature, propelled by discontent and fueled by social media, but that doesn’t help answer the ultra-modern question now facing the group: Who owns the Twitter feed—@OccupyWallStNYC—that helped make it all happen?

To try to figure that out, a group of activists filed suit in the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday, the New York Times reports, “accusing a former comrade of taking unilateral control of the shared account and locking out the organizers he had once collaborated with.” The story of the OWS Twitter handle is particularly interesting, in part because it evolved in the same helter-skelter fashion as the movement itself. Here’s more from the Times:

[T]he Twitter account was created in summer 2011 by Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that first called for an occupation of Wall Street. The resulting protests began on Sept. 17, 2011. Adbusters turned the account over to Marisa Holmes, the lawsuit said, a filmmaker and activist who had helped to moderate Occupy meetings in August 2011 in Tompkins Square Park. Ms. Holmes, in turn, gave others access to the account, which now has 177,000 followers. But in August, Justin Wedes, one of those with access, changed the passwords and locked out his fellow administrators, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Wedes did not respond to requests for comment via phone or email. But in a blog post dated four days after the lockout, he wrote that he disbanded the collective of administrators because relationships among the group had become fractious. “Clearly the question of ownership of the account is a contentious one, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers,” he wrote, adding that he planned to put the account “in the hands of responsible stewards.” Ms. Holmes had a different recollection of events, saying that other members of the collective were about to vote Mr. Wedes out of the group.

“Holmes said that there had been numerous attempts to get control of the Twitter feed from Wedes, and that suing him was a last resort,” BuzzFeed reports. “She accused him of using the feed for his own projects, especially his activism surrounding water rights in Detroit. “