Twitter pulls lawsuit after US government backs down

13 April, 2017, 02:15 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Tweet from @ALT_uscis

Twitter has withdrawn a lawsuit against the USA government after the Customs and Border Protection backed down on a demand that the social media outlet reveal details about a user account critical of the agency.

The federal government has abandoned its effort to compel Twitter for information involving an anti-Trump account after its request spurred the social networking service to file suit.

The lawsuit began over an anonymous account, claimed to be run by federal immigration employees, that the United States government was looking to unmask. The people behind the account have not disclosed their identities, but the use of "ALT" with a government agency acronym has led many to assume government employees are behind such tweets. Bhandari represents the unidentified person or people behind the Twitter account. She noted that the government's summons to Twitter had boilerplate language but lacked a specific reason for wanting to know the identities.

In the two months of its existence, the account has been critical of the Trump administration's immigration policies and "highlighted what the user views as a history of waste and mismanagement within USCIS and DHS", according to the lawsuit.

The account was briefly shut down in response - reportedly because President Trump complained directly to the head of the National Parks Service. The latter dubs itself "The Unofficial "Resistance" team of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency".

So when Twitter received DHS's order, which allegedly requested the user's name, login information, phone number, mailing address, and IP address, the company refused to comply and sought to have the agency's actions declared "unlawful and "unenforceable" in court". On April 7, 2017, counsel for Defendants from the Department of Justice contacted counsel for Twitter, to advise that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has withdrawn the summons and that the summons no longer has any force or effect. Twitter in turn sued Homeland Security and CPD last week, and the government withdrew its demand.

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Twitter was prepared to go to court to defend the right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment and it appears the Trump administration has no stomach for a fight.

"We are very heartened that Twitter is standing up for its users and making such full-throated defense of their free-speech rights", Bhandari said.

U.S. government officials issued a summons for identifying information.

This is not the first time Twitter has filed suit in defense of its and its users' First Amendment rights.

In 2014, Twitter sued the US government (under President Barack Obama) seeking to publish its full "transparency report" outlining government requests for information.

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