Update: April 7, 2017
The government has indicated that it will drop the attempt to force Twitter to reveal the identity of an account critical of administration policy.
Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight, issued the following statement:
“The Department of Homeland Security did the right thing by stepping back from their demand that Twitter identify the author of the @ALT_uscis account, but American Oversight will continue our investigation. Not every critic of the government will have a major tech company backing them up in court, so it is important for us to understand why DHS tried to stifle dissent in the first place and whether they intend to do so in the future.
“This is an odd ending to this case that honestly raises more questions than it answers. We have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to who in the Trump Administration ordered this improper administrative summons, and we are prepared to sue if necessary to hold those responsible for this overreach accountable.”
Original Release: April 6, 2017
On April 6, Twitter filed a lawsuit alleging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had attempted to use a customs summons to unmask the identity of an anonymous Twitter user critical of the administration. In its complaint, Twitter alleged that the request exceeded Homeland Security’s authority and infringed on the constitutional rights of Twitter’s users to engage in political speech.
“Homeland Security’s effort to stretch an obscure customs regulation to stifle political dissent is deeply troubling,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “This raises serious questions about the new administration. We have a right to know whether this action was ordered by political leadership or even the White House. While government officials don’t have the right to expose the identities of people who criticize them, the American people do have the right to identify government officials who try to abuse their power.”
American Oversight is filing Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover the facts behind DHS’s actions and will publish the results for the public to read.