Twitter sues government to stop unmasking of anti-Trump account

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Twitter defied a U.S. government request for records that could identify the owner of an anti Trump account and is challenging the order in court. (AP Pho
Twitter sues government to stop unmasking of anti-Trump account
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07 April, 2017

In response to the Trump administration's attempts to unmask an account that is critical of the president, Twitter (TWTR - Free Report) filed a lawsuit against the USA government on Thursday.

Following Trump's inauguration in January, anonymous Twitter feeds that borrowed the names and logos of more than a dozen USA government agencies appeared to challenge the president's views on climate change and other issues.

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

Twitter declined a request for an interview. A lot of them were probably fake, but one of these "rogue" accounts has actually drawn the ire of the Trump administration. The acronym CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account describes itself as "immigration resistance".

This is an action to prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), and the individual Defendants from unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool to try to unmask the real identity of one or more persons who have been using Twitter's social media platform, and specifically a Twitter account named @ALT_USCIS, to express public criticism of the Department and the current Administration.

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A recent message cites the text of the First Amendment.

Your Views: Readers' Letters Victim advocates fear family violence summit an empty gesture ahead of election John Drinnan: When does plain talk become hate speech? . First, it maintains that the CBP does not have jurisdiction to demand such information, which includes "names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses", associated with the account.

This is not the first time Twitter has filed suit in defense of its and its users' First Amendment rights.

Shortly after Trump's inauguration, alternative or "rogue" Twitter accounts began popping up for the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and more. The Verge reported that the person or people behind the account may be part of the federal government's immigration and customs teams. The summons, the company said, "may reflect the very sort of official retaliation that can result from speech that criticizes government officials and agencies".

It was filed in a California federal court.


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