Twitter has sued the US Department of Homeland Security over its demands that the microblogging site unmask an anonymous anti-Trump account.
In a filing [PDF] with the Northern California US District court, Twitter asks that the DHS be enjoined from requesting identifying information on a "rogue" Twitter account said to be controlled by someone at the US Customs and Immigration Service.
Twitter says DHS agents have approached the biz demanding details that could be used to identify the person behind the @alt_uscis account, a rogue account that posts links and statements critical of the Trump administration. Now it wants the courts to step in and block the agents from demanding to see the data.
"The Supreme Court has long recognized the extraordinary value of the kind of speech emanating from these accounts – pure political speech criticizing government policies and highlighting government waste and mismanagement," Twitter writes in its complaint.
"And the Court has likewise recognized that anonymity is often essential to fostering such political speech where, as here, the speaker could face retaliation or retribution if his or her real identity were linked to the speech."
The suit claims that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been demanding to see the data under the authority of US Code § 1509, a law that allows agents to view company records when investigating taxes due on imports.
Twitter argues that not only does the DHS not have the authority to request information about a case clearly unrelated to imported goods, but it is also illegally looking to suppress free speech.
The filing details one such request made by a DHS agent on March 14, 2017. Twitter says it was told that if it did not hand over the info, the department would take the company to court. Additionally, the agent seemed to believe Twitter possessed the ability to time-travel.
"The CBP Summons ordered Twitter to produce the records to a CBP office in Washington DC by 11:45 AM on March 13, 2017 – the day before the CBP Summons was faxed to Twitter," the complaint reads.
Twitter says that shortly after it received the CBP agent's request, it notified the owner of the rogue USCIS account, who seems to be taking the news in stride.
This is one way to get verified..— ALT🛂 Immigration (@ALT_uscis) April 6, 2017
The ACLU has also offered its support to Twitter and the @alt_uscis account.
We're glad Twitter is pushing back. We'll be going to court to defend this user's right to anonymous speech. https://t.co/tqj5XrNvgn— ACLU National (@ACLU) April 6, 2017
Now Twitter wants the court to declare the CBP summons unlawful and bar the government from demanding further information on rogue agency accounts. ®