Twitter is suing the Trump administration over the demand for the company to reveal the identity of the user behind the account @ALT_uscis, which is critical of the current government’s immigration policies.
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent named Adam Hoffman sent Twitter a summons (PDF) last month, demanding information about the account in question, which is believed to be maintained by run by rogue members of US immigration agencies.
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In its case against the government (PDF), Twitter pointed out that the CBP is authorized to demand information related to the importing of merchandise into the country, and its investigation of this account has nothing to do with that at all. The characters ‘uscis’ in its handle refer to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, and its posts frequently call into question the Trump administration’s immigration policies and decisions.
It also invoked the First Amendment as it highlighted the account holder’s right to freedom of speech and their decision to speak anonymously or pseudonymously.
It’ll be interesting to see how this case pans out. As Twitter noted in its lawsuit, ” 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 move on the US government’s part reeks of archaic practices to sniff out opinionated voices that raise concerns with how it operates – not unlike cases that still happen in India today, where as recently as last year, citizens have been booked for sedition when they’ve posted ‘anti-national’ messages or spoken out against government functionaries on Facebook.
@ALT_uscis is being legally represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The account noted that since the news broke just hours ago, it gained at least 50,000 new followers.
UPDATE: It looks like the U.S. Government has withdrawn its petition.
Twitter pulls lawsuit over anti-Trump account, says summons withdrawn https://t.co/q6dSdZmTda
— Reuters Tech News (@ReutersTech) April 7, 2017