Government drops request to unmask anti-Trump Twitter account

Cheryl Sanders
April 9, 2017

On Thursday, Twitter filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over attempts to force the social media giant to reveal the identity of those behind anonymous accounts that are critical of the President.

The Department of Homeland Security is using a "limited-purpose investigatory tool" to find out who is behind the account, which Twitter argues it should not be allowed to do. Twitter argues that it can not be forced into handing over the rogue account's information unless the government proves that a criminal or civil crime was committed.

As a result, Twitter is withdrawing a federal lawsuit that challenged the government's request. USCIS is an acronym for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, one of several agencies under the Department of Homeland Security.

Shortly after President Trump took office, he ordered that the Twitter accounts of various government agencies be shut down.

Twitter might have a strong case that the summons was improper, said Paul Alan Levy, staff attorney at Public Citizen Litigation Group who specializes in online privacy and free speech issues. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Following Trump's election, a handful of popular "rogue" Twitter accounts sprang up, purporting to be run by disgruntled employees of federal agencies. They are called the "alt" accounts.

The Twitter lawsuit alleged that not only was the order to unmask its user a first amendment violation, but was in no way related to powers granted by US Code § 1509, which concerns taxation of imported goods. According to Twitter, the account has only been critical of Trump, and that there's no evidence it had committed any crimes.

Twitter has defied a USA government request for the personal details of the users behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump.

Twitter said that disclosing the requested information on ALT_USCIS will have a "grave-chilling effect" on the rights to free speech for the users of the account, as well as all the other accounts that have launched criticisms against the Trump administration.

The defendants have "not come close to making any of those showings", Twitter said according to the complaint.

"The right to anonymously speak out against the government is clearly protected by the First Amendment".

The account itself tweeted on Thursday the portion of the US Constitution that protects free speech. The protester later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Other reports by iNewsToday