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

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Then Twitter told the government that it would challenge the summons unless it was withdrawn.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.


Follow Us

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.

Featured

Slideshows

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

The channel came together for the inaugural Reseller News Emerging Leaders Forum in New Zealand, created to provide a program that identifies, educates and showcases the upcoming talent of the ICT industry. Hosted as a half day event, attendees heard from industry champions as keynoters and panelists talked about future opportunities and leadership paths and joined mentoring sessions with members of the ICT industry Hall of Fame. The forum concluded with 30 Under 30 Tech Awards across areas of Sales, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Management, Technical and Human Resources. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019
Show Comments