There's a Battle Brewing Between the Trump Administration and Twitter

April 6th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

President Donald Trump's administration wants Twitter to give up some some names, but the social media company is saying no — and now they're headed to court.

On Thursday, Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government's order to turn over the real names behind an anti-Trump account.

"This is an action to prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), and the individual Defendants from unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool to try to unmask the real identity of one or more persons who have been using Twitter’s social media platform...," the filing reads.

The lawsuit says that on March 14 an official from U.S. Customs and Border Protection faxed a summons to Twitter ordering the company provide the IP address, mailing address, login information, and phone number behind the Twitter account @ALT_uscis

The account claims it is run by at least one federal immigration employee. The Twitter bio describes the account as "immigration resistance" and says the tweets are "not the views of DHS or USCIS."

The pinned tweet at the top of the page is a screenshot of the First Amendment. 

In the lawsuit, Twitter said the federal government's order violates the privacy and free speech rights of the account's users, portraying it as effort to silence critics of the Trump administration. 

"The Constitution does not permit a government agency to suppress dissent voiced by current or former employees in their private capacity — especially when such efforts exceed the agency’s statutory authority," Twitter's attorneys maintain.

The lawsuit also mentions the Trump administration's history with critical Twitter accounts since the inauguration. 

The day of Trump's inauguration, the National Park Service retweeted a picture comparing Trump's crowd size to President Barack Obama's larger crowd at his 2009 inauguration. After that retweet, the account was briefly shut down and administrators issued an apology.

Four days after the inauguration, the official Twitter account for Badlands National Park started posting tweets about climate change that were critical of Trump. The tweets were removed after they got media attention, administrators blaming it on a former employee who still had login access. 

Deleted Tweet.

After these official accounts were silenced, several "alternative," unofficial accounts that claim to be run by federal employees have popped up, like @blm_alt, @RogueEPAStaff, and @alt_labor. 

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday evening that it will be jumping in the legal battle on behalf of @ALT_uscis. 

RELATED: President Trump's Supreme Court Nominee Isn't a Fan of His Tweets