Shortly after President Trump took office, he ordered that the Twitter accounts of various government agencies be shut down. Among these agencies were the EPA, NASA, National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services. Many felt that this was an attempt by the Trump administration to change and control the narrative of scientists and other employees of the agencies when it comes to subjects he disagrees with, like climate change.
In response, agencies have set up alternative Twitter accounts to fight back against Trump’s attempt at silencing their voices. The posts from Twitter handles such as @RogueNASA, @AlternativeNWS and @ALTHHS soon became a social media thorn in Trump’s side. Now he is attempting to fight back and the result is a lawsuit by Twitter Inc., against Trump. The company has stated that the Trump administration issued a subpoena requesting information to determine the identities of those behind the accounts of those critical of the president. It’s a move that Twitter is fighting stating in part that it would violate Constitutional rights to free speech. Twitter maintains that its users are entitled to privacy unless a law has been broken. One particular handle, @ALT_USCIS, has been particularly critical of the president and his policies, the Trump administration maintains that a federal employee is behind the account.
Twitter Inc., received the subpoena and request for information after someone on the account @ALT_USCIS, which is about immigration, tweeted that Trump is planning an automated system to process immigration applications. After that tweet an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection faxed a summons to Twitter Inc., demanding the identity of the @ALT_USCIS account citing a U.S. customs statute for the examination of books and witnesses. In the summons, the government threatened legal action if Twitter didn’t comply by March 13, 2016. Twitter Inc., then received a subpoena on March 14, 2016, demanding the information under threat of law. Twitter responded with a lawsuit this week that maintains “Permitting CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT_USCIS account would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many alternative agency accounts that have been created to voice their dissent to government policies.”
The case is Twitter Inc. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 17-01916, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco)