back to article Twitter sues US govt to protect 'Department of Immigration employee' who doesn't like Trump

Twitter has sued the US Department of Homeland Security over its demands that the microblogging site unmask an anonymous anti-Trump account. In a filing [PDF] with the Northern California US District court, Twitter asks that the DHS be enjoined from requesting identifying information on a "rogue" Twitter account said to be …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    I think we need to find out who is behind Trump's twitter account. It surely couldn't really be someone with the power to launch nukes could it?

    1. BillG

      Didn't Obama do the same thing a few times? In one case had his DOJ subpoena Twitter and Facebook to reveal the identity of accounts of WikiLeaks supporters. A U.S. District Judge for DC upheld the subpoenas.

      BTW you won't find this if you use Google, you have to search using Bing or DuckDuckGo.

      1. veti Silver badge

        I found the story on Google, thank you very much.

        It's not exactly the same. In that case, the identity of the tweeters was already publicly known. There's some rather hysterical coverage about the subpoena also applying to 637,000 followers of Wikileaks, but apparently that was fake news - the actual subpoena says nothing to that effect.

  2. H in The Hague Silver badge

    Streisand effect

    How many folk were following this Twitter account before the Department of Homeland Security decided to go after it? And now? Some folk never learn.

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Streisand effect

      Shortly after the lawsuit became public, @ALT_uscis tweeted a copy of the First Amendment and a picture of part of the lawsuit to its 61,000 followers, an increase of about 28,000 in a few hours. (reuters)

    2. handleoclast

      Re: Streisand effect

      On a clear day, I can sue forever.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem here

    is that those in the civil service and administration who make these sort of requests have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it: if it gets challenged, they just get told no and try again some time latter. If it does work, they get their little revenge or whatever it is that they're after.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Problem here

      "those in the civil service and administration who make these sort of requests have nothing to lose"

      Misfeasance in public office?

    2. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: If it does work

      No. If it does work then they have case law on their side and can then do it pretty much whenever they want. That's a big prize to win for such a small gamble.

  4. doug_bostrom

    "Didn't Obama do the same thing a few times? "

    The future is easier to change than the past, but easier than both is changing the topic. Do try harder.

    1. John G Imrie

      He who controls the present controls the past, he who controls the past controls the future:- George Orwell, 1984

  5. scrubber

    And so it begins...

    The information will be for sale by an ISP in a few weeks, no subpoena required.

  6. mics39

    About time

    Twitter did the world some good.

    1. Tom 64

      Re: About time

      Probably annoyed about the illegal nature of the request, and quite rightly took it to court.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About time

      "About time Twitter did the world some good."

      Someones not paying attention. Twitter is often used to good effect on social issues. Of course, we could always shut down all the social media sites and hand the powers-that-be exactly what they want - silent obedience from the masses.

  7. tom dial Silver badge

    The DHS request to Twitter, if it is described accurately, almost certainly concerns first amendment protected "speech" and the federal court probably will waste little time in quashing it. It probably does not matter whether those who tweeted are current or former employees of either DHS or DHS contractors, or have no relation at all to DHS. A tweet containing an explicit and specific threat would be an exception, and there would be others possible, including tweets posted using DHS owned computer equipment or the DHS network, either of which might violate DHS regulations. DHS, of course, does not need Twitter to uncover those, as they can direct their network administrators do it without outside help.

    Public employees public "speech" may be, and often is, restricted in other ways, although not as much as that of private sector employees (including those employed by government contractors). Many agencies require employees to submit "publications" for review and approval by their agency's public affairs office, presumably to ensure against public statements or publications that might be taken as statements of agency policy. In some cases this appears absurd; I know of one in which an IT specialist in a DoD agency data center had to submit a talk on bird watching for prior review. There was no problem, but it was an agency rule. There may be similar DHS rules, but it seems unlikely that a court will give them authority under the law as the article cites to enforce them or go on a fishing expedition for possible employee violations.

    The case law summarized at

    varies a lot, but allows agencies to restrict employee speech in various ways. Garcetti v Ceballos, a 2006 case with an easily found Wikipedia article, catches some of the flavor, although it is not especially pertinent to the case at hand and is unrelated to the current issue between DHS and Twitter.

    1. John Riddoch

      Interesting point - does your employment contract over-rule your free speech rights? I know my work (private company) has a clause about not disparaging the company or its clients in social media which seems reasonable enough, but given how messed up things are in the US right now, it might be seen as limiting the opportunities to challenge the government.

      1. Tom Paine

        AIUI: it's not illegal for you to publish a blog post about how your employer is a bunch of crooks churning out crap products that shit on your carpet and defrost your fridge. You can't be prosecuted for it; it's not a crime. However your employer's at liberty to fire you if they find out you've been slagging them off. Your anonymity may or may not be protected, depending on the Ts & Cs of the publishing platform you use and their propensity to roll over when presented with demands from a lawyer.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      DHS ... can direct their network administrators do it"

      Only if the guy is tweeting from a DHS network. If he's doing it from home, or from his phone via cellular, or is using a VPN or similar solution, he's 100% safe.

      But even if he's using the DHS network it would be difficult. Twitter encrypts ALL connections to it, so all they can find is "here's a list of people who connected to Twitter at any time during time period X" - which would include those who aren't sending tweets but merely reading those from this guy, or Kim Kardashian, or Trump. They'd have to look at the time stamps of his tweets and try to narrow down those logs of millions of connects to Twitter from DHS networks down to one individual. Probably not feasible.

  8. Potemkine Silver badge

    Thanks for the Streisand effect

    Read somewhere else:

    Followers for this account before DHS request: 32,000

    Followers after DHS request: over 125,000 now.

    Well done DHS to help spreading real news!

  9. swm Silver badge

    Because of the publicity the government has dropped its request. But there is nothing indicating they will try again (and again).

    1. Jay 2

      Maybe they hope it will all blow over before they try again. Though I'm sure someone will notice and whip up some opposition. Then repeat until the government gives up.

    2. Trump rulz

      try again?

      esp after "conservatives" get enough Supreme Court seats...

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