Comment: Twitter Defends First Amendment

We applaud Twitter in defending the right to free speech of those criticizing the immigration policy of the Trump administration.

The Hill reports: Twitter alleges Trump administration tried to unmask critical account

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Thursday alleging that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials had tried to get the company to reveal the identity of an anonymous account that has been critical of the agency. The lawsuit alleges CBP agents issued an administrative summons to Twitter asking it to reveal the identity of the user @ALT_uscis, an account that has been critical of the administration and specifically the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and claims to be run by a government employee. Both CBP and USCIS are part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is named in the lawsuit.

"Defendants may not compel Twitter to disclose information regarding the real identities of these users without first demonstrating that some criminal or civil offense has been committed, that unmasking the users’ identity is the least restrictive means for investigating that offense, that the demand for this information is not motivated by a desire to suppress free speech, and that the interests of pursuing that investigation outweigh the important First Amendment rights of Twitter and its users," Twitter's attorneys wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the user in the DHS case, expressed concern that the order is an attempt to curb free speech. "To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification," ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said in a statement. "But in this case the government has given no reason at all, leading to concerns that it is simply trying to stifle dissent."

The right to criticize the government is a core First Amendment right which is the very foundation of United States of America. We urge all Americans--regardless of their view of immigration--to defend the right of people to speak their mind. This attempt to silence a critic seems to be having exactly the opposite effect than was intended: at the time of the court filing yesterday, the @ALT_USCIS account had been active for two months and had 32,000 followers; at the time of this writing today on April 7th, it has over 154,000 followers--and @ALT_USCIS continues to tweet fearlessly.

UPDATE: Reuters reports that the government has withdrawn the summons for the records of who was behind ALT_uscis, saying that the demand "no longer has any force or effect", and consequently Twitter has dropped the lawsuit it filed yesterday defending its users and itself. Congratulations Twitter and Thank you!

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