SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Social media giant Twitter has refused to turn over the identity of a user who tweets posts critical of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court.
In the suit filed by the San Francisco-based company, Twitter claims a CBP administrative summons asking for information about the author or authors of posts on the account — @ALT_USCIS (ALT Immigration) – is illegal.
The summons asked Twitter to turn over “all records regarding the Twitter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses and I.P. addresses.”
The company claimed that speech on a Twitter page is protected by the First Amendment and that turning over the identity of the author or authors would be a violation of those rights.
Since President Donald Trump’s election, Twitter says, several sites it labels as ‘Alternate Agency” accounts have sprung up.
Accounts like @RougeNOAA, @RougeEPAStaff, @ALT_CDC, @blm_alt and @alt_labor. All are critical of those government agencies.
The accounts “are named and self-described by their users in a manner that both (a) identifies the particular agency that the user seeks primarily to criticize and with which the user purports to have significant knowledge,” according to the lawsuit.
Twitter said in its two months of existence, @ALT_USCIS, has attracted more than 32,000 followers and issued thousands of tweets.
The account was created the same day that Trump issued his first immigration executive order.
The users, Twitter said, go to great lengths to hide their identity because many may be employees of those federal departments and fear retribution for voicing their objections.
Twitter has asked the court to force the CBP to show that “some criminal or civil offense has been committed, that unmasking the users’ identity is the least restrictive means for investigating an offense, that the demand for this information is not motivated by a desire to suppress free speech.”
For its part, the CBP has threatened further action against the social media giant if it does not comply with the summons.