Twitter pulls lawsuit after US government backs down

Posted April 13, 2017

Twitter Inc. dropped its suit against the USA government Friday after the government withdrew its summons to reveal the identity of an account that had been critical of the Trump Administration.

It was not immediately clear why the government had withdrawn the summons, or whether it had closed an investigation it said it was conducting.

Twitter has dropped a lawsuit it was poised to pursue against the USA government after the Trump administration withdrew pressure it was putting on the tech giant to handover details of a user who had been critical of the President.

The @ALT_USCIS account's followers also ballooned from 38,000 to 158,000 during the lawsuit's single-day lifespan.

The summons also demanded the information by 13 March 2017 - a day before the request was even sent to Twitter.

This is not the first time Twitter has filed suit in defense of its and its users' First Amendment rights.

The micro-blogging service was backed by the American Civil Liberties union (ACLU), which said it would join the court battle.

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Twitter's filing said the summons requesting the name or names of the account holder had been withdrawn.

The abrupt end to the dispute may indicate that Justice Department lawyers did not like their chances of succeeding in a fight about speech rights, said Jamie Lee Williams, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights.

Twitter made a decision to take legal action against the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, because it felt summoning the information was "abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool" and completely going against freedom of speech.

The acronym US CIS refers to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the account describes itself as "immigration resistance".

@ALT_USCIS is one of a number of "alt-gov" accounts to arise since Trump's January 20 inauguration and the new administration's clampdown on career government employees' use of agencies' official social media accounts.

Ms. Bhandari added, "The anonymity that the First Amendment guarantees is often most essential when people criticize the government, and this free speech right is as important today as ever".