Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration after it tried to force the social network to reveal the identity of the people behind an anti-Trump account.
The lawsuit, filed by Twitter against the Department of Homeland Security, represents a stand against a move to curb the rights of free speech in social media.
US Government Seeks To Unmask Anti-Trump Twitter Account
On March 13, a special agent from the Customs and Border Protection unit of the Department of Homeland Security sent a summons to Twitter, demanding the social network to disclose information regarding the ALT_USCIS account. The department was looking to acquire all the records that Twitter held regarding the account, including its user names, account log-in credentials, mailing addresses, IP addresses, and phone numbers.
Since Donald Trump has taken office after his surprising victory to become the 45th President of the United States, several "alt-agency" accounts have surfaced on Twitter that criticize Trump's actions. These accounts are unofficial deviations from the verified Twitter accounts of government agencies, and the ALT_USCIS account, reportedly being run by federal immigration employees, is the alt-agency version for Citizenship and Immigration Services.
While the alt-agency account for the Labor Department have criticized Trump's employment policies and the alt-agency account for the Environmental Protection Agency has decried the president's moves involving the climate, the ALT_USCIS account has focused its ire mostly on the controversial immigration policies of Trump.
Twitter Fires Back With Lawsuit
Twitter refused to disclose the identities of the people behind ALT_USCIS and has instead fired back by launching a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.
In the lawsuit, Twitter said that the account in question is known to have expressed public criticism of the Trump administration and its immigration policies, but the people behind ALT_USCIS and Twitter are protected by the First Amendment.
Twitter added that the U.S. government could not compel the social network to reveal the identities of the people behind ALT_USCIS without showing that the account committed a civil or criminal offense and that knowing the identities of the people behind the account is the least restrictive method to investigate the offense. Twitter also said that the government should also prove that the demand for the information is not a means to suppress the right to free speech and that the benefits of the investigation is more important than the free speech rights granted by the First Amendment to Twitter and the social network's users.
Twitter said that disclosing the requested information on ALT_USCIS will have a "grave-chilling effect" on the rights to free speech for the users of the account as well as all the other accounts that have launched criticisms against the Trump administration.
The Department of Homeland Security has declined to issue a comment on the filed lawsuit, but the agency should expect another one to arrive soon.
The American Civil Liberties Union will represent ALT_USCIS in filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of the anonymous Twitter user, also citing the rights granted by the First Amendment as the backbone of the charges to be filed against the Department of Homeland Security.