Twitter is suing the U.S. government after the Trump administration tried to force it to reveal the real identity behind an anti-Trump account. Today, Twitter sued the US government because the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs & Border Protection division have apparently been trying to unmask the operator of the @ALT_uscis account, which claims to be run by people working for US Citizenship and Immigration Service presenting the "rogue" view on immigration issues. Twitter had no additional comment beyond the lawsuit.
The movement was sparked by President Donald Trump's gag orders on government scientists following his inauguration. Majority were probably fake, but one of these "rogue" accounts has actually drawn the ire of the Trump administration.
Twitter filed this lawsuit against the federal government on Thursday, claiming that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents attempted last month to force the social media giant to identify the user behind an account that's been substantially critical of the U.S. government on immigration matters. Other such "alternative" - or "alt" - accounts include @Alt_CDC for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and @AltUSEPA for the Environmental Protection Agency.
"On March 14, 2017, [DHS] issued and delivered to Twitter an administrative summons. demanding that Twitter provide them records that would unmask, or likely lead to unmasking, the identity of the person (s) responsible for the @ALT_USCIS account", the suit read.
Twitter has requested a court block the Trump administration's request, calling it a matter of free speech.
Twitter's lawsuit noted that "those who speak through these "alternative agency" accounts do so pseudonymously, often going to considerable lengths to avoid disclosing their real identities" for fear of retribution.
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That circumstance became clear for Democrats this year when they were largely unable to block any of Trump's cabinet appointments. That's known as a "cloture vote" and with at least 41 Democrats voting no, the motion to proceed to a final vote will fail.
But the federal agencies and other defendants "have not come close" to demonstrating any of this, the lawsuit states.
The company filed the suit in the Northern California District of the U.S. District Court.
Twitter, which counts Trump among its active users, has a record of litigating in favour of user privacy.
The move was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.