Twitter rejects US effort to unmask anti-Trump users

Twitter defied a US government request for records that could identify users behind an account opposed to President Donald Trump account, and is challenging the order in court.

Twitter primarily frames its lawsuit as a free speech issue, claiming the DHS order "violates the First Amendment rights of both Twitter and its users by seeking to unmask the identity of one or more anonymous Twitter users voicing criticism of the government on matters of public concern".

"The rights of free speech afforded Twitter's users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the US Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech", the lawsuit says.

Twitter has yet to comment on the lawsuit. The user has been critical of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department (USCIS) and claims the account is managed by a federal employee. Nearly instantly, a whole bunch of so-called "rogue" Twitter accounts claiming to be run by government employees popped up and started posting anti-Trump stuff. The Supreme Court has long recognized the extraordinary value of the kind of speech emanating from these accounts-pure political speech criticizing government policies and highlighting government waste and mismanagement.

Shortly after Donald Trump came to power in January, the Twitter account for the National Parks Service was briefly shut down when it "accidentally" shared posts that acknowledged how small the crowd was for his inauguration. She also declined to say whether she has held conversations with US officials.

Twitter said it received an administrative summons last month demanding that it provide records related to the account.

"The CBP Summons ordered Twitter to produce the records to a CBP office in Washington DC by 11:45 AM on March 13, 2017 - the day before the CBP Summons was faxed to Twitter", the complaint reads.

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.

Twitter - with legal representation from President Bill Clinton's former solicitor general, Seth Waxman - is fighting the request on both First Amendment and specific statutory grounds.

The social media company has a history of challenging government demands for information on its users, including a 2012 demand from NY prosecutors about an Occupy Wall Street protester.

  • Fernando Stephens