Twitter rejects US effort to unmask anti-Trump officials' accounts

Twitter is the social media outlet President Trump favors to spread his message, but it's also home to a host of critical accounts claiming to be written by dissenting federal employees.

The account claimed it was being run by federal employees at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Twitter defied a USA government request for records that could identify users behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump account, and is challenging the order in court. These accounts provide a platform for purported current or former employees of federal agencies, without revealing their identities.

Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favour of user privacy. It must prove that a criminal or civil offense has been committed, that it's not asking for information with the intent of suppressing free speech, and that the interests of the investigation outweigh the First Amendment rights of Twitter and its users.

Twitter says its users have a constitutional right to disseminate such "anonymous and pseudonymous political speech".

However, the filing of the suit seems to have emboldened the people behind the account, which now boasts the US Constitution's First Amendment as its pinned tweet.

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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.

Twitter argues that the order is unlawful and must be dismissed.

According to Recode, the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment due to the impending lawsuit.

Second, 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 suit also cites the Supreme Court's long tradition of protecting anonymous political speech in situations where "the speaker could face retaliation or retribution if his or her real identity were linked to the speech".

Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the Twitter user in the case, said the government's request was highly unusual.

A CBP spokeswoman said Thursday the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

  • Delia Davidson