The Hill reported Thursday that Twitter has sued the Trump administration over allegations that officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection asked the social media company to identify who is behind a prominent anti-Trump account. Twitter is accusing the administration of issuing an "administrative summons," demanding that the company reveal the identify of @ALT_uscis, an "alternative" account for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that claims to be run by an unknown employee. The account has over 51,000 followers. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
In the lawsuit, Twitter alleges that on March 14, CPB officials sent a summons to the company asserting that it was "required to turn over '[a]ll records regarding the [T]witter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses.'" The officials allegedly threatened to sue Twitter in federal court if it didn't comply with the request, according to the lawsuit.
Twitter filed the suit on Thursday. Shortly after it did, the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Twitter that it will be "going to court to defend this user's right to anonymous speech," while @ALT_uscis itself responded by posting a screenshot of the First Amendment.
A CPB spokeperson told The Hill that "as a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation."
Twitter is arguing in its lawsuit that administrative summons' are only intended to be used in investigations of merchandise being imported into the United States; this, Twitter claims, means that CPB issued the summons improperly. The CPB officials who issued the summons also asked Twitter not to tell the owner of @ALT_uscis about the request the administration had made, according to the lawsuit. Twitter says that one of the officials confirmed that he was investigating @ALT_uscis, but "did not identify any law or laws that he believed had been broken or point to any evidence substantiating any such belief."
"Compelled disclosure of the identities of Twitter users who have engaged in pseudonymous speech would chill their exercise of the constitutionally protected right to speak anonymously,” the lawsuit alleges. “Moreover, independent of its users’ rights, Twitter’s actions in providing a platform for the dissemination of its users’ speech—including its decision to permit the publication of pseudonymous speech — is fully protected by the First Amendment.”
@ALT_uscis, which claims to have gained an addition 17,000 followers since news of the lawsuit broke, is one of many Twitter accounts that purports to be run by current or former members of the Trump administration. Like all such accounts, @ALT_uscis is run anonymously, making it impossible to confirm which, if any, are actually being operated by government officials.