Back in March, security researcher Justin Shafer replied to a tweet about FBI agent Nathan Hopp. “Nathan Hopp is the least busy FBI agent of all time,” read the tweet. Shafer’s reply, directed at four Twitter users, was a single smiley-face emoji. Now, the Department of Justice has subpoenaed all of the people — @Popehat, @PogoWasRight, @dawg8u, @abtnatural, and @associatesmind — in that Twitter canoe, seeking personal information about each user, including real names, phone numbers, Twitter sessions, and IP addresses, from the microblogging company.
The connection between Shafer and the FBI dates back to 2013, when Shafer found that FairCom’s data-encryption package was subpar and had left a dentist’s office open to theft. This was fine — the FTC settled with FairCom — until another dentist’s office came forward and argued that Shafer’s disclosure broke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Which prompted the FBI to raid Shafer’s home. Nathan Hopp was one of the agents doing the raiding. (Hopp was also involved in the arrest of a man who sent a seizure-inducing GIF to reporter Kurt Eichenwald.) After that, Shafer began posting personal information about Hopp on Twitter. Which prompted the DOJ to investigate Shafer for cyberstalking Hopp, hence this week’s subpoenas. One of which maybe makes sense, if you believe Shafer was cyberstalking Hopp. And even if you do, the identities and personal information of the other four users in the thread seem highly unnecessary to the DOJ’s case. Twitter is fighting the legal action and has not yet released any user information. Mind your emoji, everybody.