Technology

Twitter refuses US order to reveal user behind anti-Trump account

Twitter refuses US order to reveal user behind anti-Trump account”

Twitter is suing the United States government after it demanded it reveal the identity of an anti-Trump account.

Tweets from the @ALT_USCIS account, which is still active, indicate that it is run by someone who claims to be a government employee working at the USCIS.

As you probably know by now, there are a whole bunch of "alt" or "rogue" government Twitter accounts, initially inspired by what appeared to be tweets from a former National Parks Service employee containing "rogue" information against the Trump administration.

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

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The Trump administration didn't want the public to know it had commanded Twitter to share the information.

The suit names The Department of Homeland Security alongside four other defendants: DHS secretary John Kelly, acting CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan, and special agents Stephen P. Caruso and Adam Hoffman, who issued the information request order.

Twitter has refused to comply, and the company has filed a lawsuit that points out that the First Amendment gives it and its users "a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech" without having to answer to the government.

On March 14 Twitter received a CBP 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", according to the suit, which describes the summons as unlawful.

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Former Obama Administration official Evelyn Farkas appeared to acknowledge Trump officials had been the subject of surveillance. She said the White House isn't responsible for ordering that type of surveillance.

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".

But its primary objection, the company said, is that allowing the government to unmask Twitter critics is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment right to free speech.

"The objective of this request appears to be, and the effect of Twitter's complying with it likely would be, to enable or help to enable Defendants to pierce the anonymity of the person or persons who established and use the @ALT_USCIS account", the 25-page lawsuit states. "We'll be going to court to defend this user's right to anonymous speech".

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

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A VPN (virtual private network) adds security and privacy to the Internet, public and private networks and WiFi hot spots. So if President Donald Trump signs the measure, as the White House has indicated he will, the status quo will remain.



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