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Twitter Tuesday: WikiLeaks Twitter accounts subpoenaed by US government

Twitter Tuesday took last week off to recover from New Year's celebrations and report on the launch of Twitter for Mac in Apple's Mac App Store, but we're back on the tweet beat this week with the latest news and apps, starting with the interesting case of the U.S. government ordering Twitter to disclose user data.

The United States Department of Justice has secured a court order that requires Twitter to turn over a huge amount of information related to WikiLeaks' Twitter account and the accounts of various WikiLeaks members and supporters. The order asks for IP addresses and account registration info, but it also demands some things a free service like Twitter is unlikely to have, including addresses and credit card data.

Even more significant than the order itself was Twitter's reaction. Twitter actually went to court to have the government's requests unsealed, giving the targets of the investigation 10 days to respond. That shows Twitter will take action to protect its users' data, which is good news for anyone with a Twitter account, even those of us who aren't likely targets for government subpoenas. As Ryan Singel at Wired News put it, "Twitter beta-tested a spine," and that spine is a feature that benefits every one of the service's users.

Twitter Place Finder Shows Tweets Near You

Many mobile Twitter apps include a "nearby" feature that reveals geotagged tweets sent from your current location, but there's no official Web interface for nearby tweets. Twitter Place Finder is a third-party website that fills the gap, using the same APIs that power those mobile apps. Just enter a location, and you've got the buzz from around your immediate area. Unfortunately, many of these tweets will be Foursquare check-ins from people you don't know or care about -- my only feature request for Twitter Place Finder is a button to remove Foursquare and Gowalla tweets.

UK Orders Celebs to Disclose Sponsored Twitter Endorsements

The UK's Office of Fair Trading is cracking down on celebrity endorsements on Twitter, requiring that paid online endorsements must be clearly labeled as ads, even if they're only 140 characters. The concern is that seemingly grassroots movements on Twitter might actually be paid campaigns, and users would have no way of telling the difference.

This new rule isn't celebs-only. Any Twitter user getting paid to endorse a product, from Snoop Dogg on down to your run-of-the-mill marketing blogger will have to reveal who's buttering their bread. It's not just the UK making these rules, either: in 2009, the FTC instituted fines for bloggers who didn't reveal that they were being paid to post.

How To Use an Animated GIF as Your Twitter Icon (Please, Don't)

If Twitter just doesn't have enough of the flavor of early-90s Geocities for you, you can spice up your profile by using an animated GIF as your icon. The folks at F.A.T. -- the same group that brought you an anti-Justin-Bieber Firefox and Chrome add-ons -- have whipped up a quick hack that will allow you to animate your Twitter avatar.

It's a nifty trick that's certain to annoy all of your followers. All I can say is: please, for the love of Biz Stone, don't do it.

Well, that's your first Twitter Tuesday of 2011! We'll be back next week with more Twitter news, apps and services, so stay tuned!

Tags: columns, SocialNetworking, twitter, twitter place finder, twitter tuesday, TwitterPlaceFinder, TwitterTuesday, wikileaks