Donald Trump’s run as president has thus far been a very eventful and controversial one, a point that’s being emphasized by Twitter suing US authorities for demanding the account information of a Twitter account that has been showing opposition to Trump and his administration. The demand for information reportedly landed in Twitter’s offices last month, and they have refused compliance on the grounds that both the anonymous Twitter user and Twitter itself is entitled to free speech, including criticism of political figures, without fear of governmental recourse under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Twitter’s lawsuit calls for the matter to be dropped outright, the request left unfulfilled.
The user account in question is @ALT_uscis, an account said to be associated with federal immigration staff. The demand for records was phrased in an arguably ambiguous manner, using terms such as “to ascertain the correctness of entries”, and for tax-related reasons. Seeing this as a roundabout way of avoiding stating the real reason for the request, Twitter opted to fight back and protect their user base’s free speech rights. Twitter is filing a lawsuit openly denying the validity of the summons, with no other conditions or repercussions. The spat has caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is jumping into the debate on behalf of Twitter and the anonymous user or users behind the dissident account.
Homeland Security, for their part, did not make any official comment on the case, though they are presented as a defendant in the lawsuit. The demand originated from US Customs and Border Protection, which means that allegations point to the account originating from somewhere under their banner. While the communication would likely still be found to fall under First Amendment protections, the possibility of the request being for information on an employee of the requester may complicate matters in unforeseen ways. Evidence of the involvement of CBP employees is fairly limited, but the account’s handle includes CIS, an acronym for Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account refers to itself as “Immigration resistance,” while adding in the disclaimer, “Not the views of DHS or USCIS.” The ambiguity on whether CBP employees are behind the account will make this case a bit more complicated than it otherwise would have been, but it will still boil down to a tech giant defending civil rights versus a government agency demanding information that they see themselves as entitled to.