Twitter sues government to stop unmasking of anti-Trump account

AFP | Twitter filed suit Thursday against the U.S. government, asking a court to back its refusal to hand over the identities of users claiming to be dissenting federal employees. But CBP's investigation of the @ALT_USCIS account plainly has nothing whatsoever to do with the importation of merchandise into the United States.

On Thursday, Reuters broke the story that Twitter is suing the us government for trying to make the company give up the identity of the person or people running an anti-Trump account on its platform.

"Rogue" Twitter accounts claiming to be run by federal employees from different agencies have proliferated in the months since Trump's inauguration, and have been the source of consternation for an administration fixated on leaks.

Well, if Twitter were forced to give up the account's information, it could set a precedent that would certainly concern even the most optimistic internet privacy advocates.

The company filed a lawsuit against the federal Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Protection office, charging that their efforts to "unmask" the people behind the account violated the First Amendment.

The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to an AFP query.

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Some took to Twitter with "alternative" handles - claiming to be federal employees exercising their free-speech rights - and the resistance mushroomed into a movement.

Twitter said the government agencies, in seeking the identities of the account holders, would be "unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool", and asked the court to invalidate any summons for the data.

Now Twitter wants the court to declare the CBP summons unlawful and bar the government from demanding further information on rogue agency accounts.

In any event, the company's lawyers wrote, "Permitting CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT_USCIS account would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many other "alternative agency" accounts that have been created to voice dissent to government policies".

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation. "We'll be going to court to defend this user's right to anonymous speech".

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was representing the anonymous Twitter user, who has 33,000 followers, and would be filing on the user's behalf soon.

  • Kyle Warner