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Twitter sues United States over anti-Trump account

07 April 2017

The account in question claims to be run by one or more current employees of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is a unit within Homeland Security.

The social media company Twitter is suing the USA government after denying a demand from the Trump administration that they disclose personal details of a Twitter account opposed to their policies.

The company went on to argue any unmasking of the account would have a chilling effect on users critical of the Trump administration, and by extension, free speech.

Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favour of user privacy.

Twitter, like other social media companies, frequently receives requests from law enforcement agencies to remove content or for more information about specific accounts.

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The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to an AFP query. On March 14, the US Customs and Border Protections issued a summons to Twitter demanding the social network release records that would lead to the account's owners. The account also posted a screengrab of the First Amendment and later joked, "This is one way to get verified".

According to Twitter's court filings, Homeland Security is "unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool" to find out who is behind the @ALT_USCIS account.

Twitter says its users have a constitutional right to disseminate such "anonymous and pseudonymous political speech". In this context, the CBP Summons must be declared unlawful and enjoined absent an evidentiary showing by Defendants that some criminal or civil offense has been committed, that unmasking the users' identity is the least restrictive means for investigating that offense, that the demand for this information is not motivated by a desire to suppress free speech, and that the interests of pursuing that investigation outweigh the important free speech rights of Twitter and its users. Reuters reported reported that the American Civil Liberties Union is representing whomever is behind.

According to Twitter's lawsuit, it received a summons last month that demanded it name the user as part of "an investigation to ensure compliance with duties, taxes, and fines and other customs and immigration matters", which the company recognized as being a whole bunch of bullshit.

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

Twitter sues United States over anti-Trump account