Twitter challenges U.S. order for anti-Trump user records

Elbert EdwardsApr 07, 2017

Overall, the lawsuit proves that Twitter is willing to stand up to even the most powerful of legal opponents on behalf of its users.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to unmask the user behind a Twitter account critical of the Trump administration.

Online Chat: DJ Kachman, the Veterans Affairs Department's director of mobile and security technology transformation lead, on April 10, at 1 p.m. In its description, @ALT_USCIS says that it does not express the views of DHS or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The account described its users to The Associated Press in February as employees and former employees of the agency.

Twitter also stated that revealing the identity of the account user "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 latter dubs itself "The Unofficial "Resistance" team of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency".

Two CBP agents sent the summons to Twitter last month and said it was "required to turn over "a$3 ll records regarding the [T] witter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses".

"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 argued that CBP was obligated to demonstrate that some criminal or civil offense had been committed and that outing the account holders' identities was the least restrictive way to advance the investigation.

It was not immediately clear how the anonymous account fit into those laws and regulations, and 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. Twitter has long defended its users' rights to free expression - a position it has held for years, notably during the widespread "Arab Spring" protests in 2011.

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.

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