losangelesnewstoday.com June 18, 2018

Twitter challenges US order for anti-Trump user records

07 April 2017, 02:14 | Dawn Berry

Twitter refuses U.S. order to reveal user behind anti-Trump account

Twitter sues US government to keep anti-Trump account private

Twitter filed suit on Thursday against the U.S. government, asking a court to back its refusal to hand over the identities of users claiming to be dissenting federal employees. The acronym CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account's description refers to itself as "immigration resistance".

Twitter filed a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, asking the court to prevent the department from taking steps to unmask the user behind an account critical of the Trump administration. Accounts apparently run by employees (or former employees) of the National Park Service, National Weather Service, Labor Department and other agencies have all appeared to question the Trump administration's policies and fact-check its assertions on a variety of topics.

Well, if Twitter were forced to give up the account's information, it could set a precedent that would certainly concern even the most optimistic internet privacy advocates.

Twitter says its users have a constitutional right to disseminate such "anonymous and pseudonymous political speech". Twitter says the administration demanded they release private information about the account a month ago.

The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to an AFP query.

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The suit claims that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been demanding to see the data under the authority of US Code § 1509, a law that allows agents to view company records when investigating taxes due on imports. The account also posted a screengrab of the First Amendment and later joked, "This is one way to get verified".

In any event, the company's lawyers wrote, "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".

Nicholas Pacilio, a spokesman for Twitter, likewise said: "We're not providing comment beyond what's in the filing".

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has taken up the case for Twitter, saying that the government request to Twitter was highly unusual.

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