SAN FRANCISCO - Twitter said in a lawsuit on Thursday that it had received a demand from U.S. officials for records that could reveal the user behind a Twitter account opposed to President Donald Trump. Twitter is challenging the demand in court.
The lawsuit over the anonymous account, claimed to be run by federal immigration employees, was filed in federal court in San Francisco, where Twitter is based.
Following Trump's inauguration in January, anonymous Twitter feeds voicing concerns at more than a dozen U.S. government agencies appeared to challenge the president's views on climate change and other issues.
In the lawsuit, Twitter mentions that the Twitter account in question, @ALT_USCIS, has been known to "express public criticism of the Department and the current Administration," but that Twitter and its users are protected under the First Amendment.
The US government, Twitter says in the complaint, "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 says that "Defendants have not come close to making any of those showings."
"The rights of free speech afforded Twitter’s users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech," Twitter said in the lawsuit.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation.
The company said it received an administrative summons last month demanding that it provide records related to the account. The acronym CIS refers to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account's description refers to itself as "immigration resistance."
The social media company has a history of challenging other government demands for information on its users, including a 2012 demand from New York prosecutors about an Occupy Wall Street protester.
Twitter declined to comment.
(Editing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)
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