US backs down over unmasking anti-Trump Twitter account

Claim dropped after Twitter files a lawsuit against the government

The US government has given up on its quest to force Twitter to reveal details of an anti-Trump account, @ALT_USCIS, just a day after the social network announced it would be taking authorities to court to block attempts to find out who's behind the tweets.

Twitter decided to take legal action against the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, because it felt summoning the information was "abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool" and completely going against freedom of speech.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The social network was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which said it would stand by Twitter and take action against the government too if it continued its attempt to find out the account's genuine owner.

@ALT_USCIS also had a huge amount of support from the Twitter community, with its user base increasing from 38,000 to 158,000 in a day

The government wanted Twitter to hand over all details of the account including "user names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and IP (computer) addresses."

07/04/2017: Twitter pushes back against US government data demand

Twitter is suing the American government to stop authorities from revealing the person behind an account that's criticised President Trump.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Trump's administration is targeting the @ALT_USCIS account because it claims to be run by government staff at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. The Department of Homeland Security is using a "limited-purpose investigatory tool" to find out who is behind the account, which Twitter argues it should not be allowed to do.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"The rights of free speech afforded Twitter's users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the US Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech," the social media site argues in the legal filing.

The filing added that Twitter need not hand over such data unless a criminal or civil offence has been committed, noting that the specific legal tool the DHS is trying to use actually relates to federal laws around imported merchandise and it's clear the investigation isn't about that.

The complaint noted that many so-called resistance accounts have popped up since Trump's inauguration, claiming to be run by staff at various government agencies. Naturally, they are run anonymously, in order to avoid "retaliation, harassment, or even loss of livelihood that might occur if their real identities became known to their superiors".

The account in question claims to be run by a current federal employee, and sends tweets criticising the government's immigration policies, as well as raising concerns about "historical and recent mismanagement" at the agency.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The ACLU has said it will be "going to court to defend this user's right to anonymous speech", and said it was "glad" that Twitter was pushing back to defend the person or people behind the account.

The specific account in question, @ALT_USCIS, has seen its follower numbers leap since the case became public, suggesting the attention from the government is ensuring more people are aware of it. However, the administration may care less about follower counts and more about cracking down on leakers.

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now



UK government may trace COVID-19 patients using mobile phone data

20 Mar 2020
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Irish data regulator racks up GDPR cases against Big Tech

24 Feb 2020
data management

EU-US data transfer tools used by Facebook ruled legal

19 Dec 2019

Arcserve UDP 9240DR review: Beef up your backups

4 Apr 2019

Most Popular

Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020
video conferencing

Zoom beams iOS user data to Facebook for targeted ads

27 Mar 2020
high-performance computing (HPC)

IBM dedicates supercomputing power to coronavirus research

24 Mar 2020

These are the companies offering free software during the coronavirus crisis

25 Mar 2020