The US government issued an order to Twitter to force it to reveal the identity of an anonymous anti-Trump account, however, Twitter is fighting back and suing the government.
The legal battle:
The account in question is @ALT_uscis, which has over 120,000 followers. It’s solely focused on attacking Donald Trump’s immigration policies, especially plans for a border wall with Mexico.
Several “alt” accounts have emerged after Trump’s inauguration, they’re accounts for US government agencies claiming to be run by anonymous employees in the departments themselves. In this account’s case, it’s the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The US government ordered Twitter to unmask the account and demanded information such as the account’s phone number and IP addresses, under powers designed to tackle the import of counterfeit goods, demanding, according to Twitter.
The social media platform is attempting to block the order by suing the Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection, stating that it’s an abuse of powers and that forcing it to reveal who is behind @ALT-uscis would violate free speech.
The complaint states that the Government departments are “unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool.” According to Twitter, the account has only been critical of Trump, and that there’s no evidence it had committed any crimes.
The complaint said: “Defendants may not compel Twitter to disclose information regarding the real identities of these users without first demonstrating that some criminal or civil offence has been committed… defendants have not come close to making any of these showings.”
The case is also backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that has been fighting Trump’s travel ban in the nation’s courtrooms.
The first “alt” account was created in January, when the official account for the National Park Service was closed after negatively comparing crowds at Trump’s inauguration with Barack Obama’s.
The “alt” accounts include the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Labor.
Since it was set up back in January, the @ALT_uscis account has written almost 9,000 tweets, most of which attack the Trump administration. One of the tweets claims to set the record straight on the level of illegal immigration and the cost and effectiveness of Trump’s policies.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey is one of the accounts’ followers.
Twitter doesn’t require users to prove their real identity, in order to protect free speech. However, its anonymous accounts have been criticized for allowing trolls to thrive on the platform.
Trump himself is an avid Twitter user, but he had a falling out with the company during the campaign when they refused to create an anti-Hillary Clinton emoji.