Twitter pushes back: Social media platform sues to stop unmasking of Trump critic

Twitter Inc. on Thursday sued the government over a demand by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that it identify the individual or individuals behind @ALT_uscis, an account claimed to be run by at least one employee of the immigration service. The news was met with a rare flood of good will toward Twitter from its users — offering respite for a company that has struggled recently to expand its audience, excite investors or attract new revenue streams. The 25-page lawsuit was also a clear display by the company that it would maintain its pro-free speech stance under government pressure.

[The Trump administration has met] a new and innovative class of American speakers … who provide views and commentary that is often vigorously opposed, resistant or ‘alternative’ to the official actions and policies of the new administration.

Lawsuit filed by Twitter

In the lawsuit, Twitter’s lawyers dedicated several pages to pictures of tweets from “rogue” government accounts that fact-check statements made by the Trump administration. In one tweet, a user explains the science behind climate change. Twitter, which once prided itself as representing the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” has moved in recent months to implement stricter policies to crack down on incitements to violence and to limit hate speech and harassment.

Twitter and other social media sites make promises to users about protecting anonymity. This is a way for Twitter to say, 'See, we are standing up for your rights.’

Jane Kirtley, law and journalism professor at the University of Minnesota