Twitter sues the US government for demanding it unmask an 'alt' account

Twitter says the demand is unlawful and would have 'a grave chilling effect' on privacy

IDG

IDG

Twitter is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and alleging the government is misusing an investigative tool as part of an internal witch-hunt to uncover who is behind a Twitter account critical of the immigration service.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in California, comes on the heels of a report that visitors to the U.S. could soon be routinely asked to hand over email and social media account passwords to the immigration service.

In its lawsuit, Twitter says that U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have demanded it hand over information regarding the @alt_uscis Twitter account.

The account is one of many established after the inauguration of President Donald Trump as dissent accounts of U.S. government agencies. The writers are critical of Trump and new leadership, and most claim to be insiders working in government or former staffers.

On March 14, Twitter received a summons from the customs agency demanding the identity of the person behind the account, the company says.

Twitter refused, contending the law that allows the government to demand the information, 19 U.S. Code § 1509, only covers a narrow range of alleged offenses, including import violations.

"CBP's investigation of the @alt_uscis account plainly has nothing whatsoever to do with the importation of merchandise into the United States," it says in the lawsuit.

"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."

The lawsuit follows discussions between Twitter and a U.S. customs investigator over the appropriateness and lawfulness of the summons. Twitter says it told the investigator it would notify the account holder unless it was served with a court order forbidding it from doing so. The government did not apply for such an order.

Then Twitter told the government that it would challenge the summons unless it was withdrawn. That didn't happen, and Twitter then filed Thursday's lawsuit.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal said visitors to the U.S. could soon be asked to hand over email and social media passwords as part of their vetting to get into the country. The so-called "extreme vetting" would give the U.S. government deep access into the personal lives of visitors in a way no other country has ever attempted.

The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency have yet to comment on Thursday's lawsuit.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?