For a number of years now, the federal government has been pressuring internet companies to provide information on their users. More often than not, they are obliged to cooperate by a court order — and are told to stay quiet about it by a gag order.
But on Thursday, Twitter drew a line on what it is willing to stay quiet about without a fight. The San Francisco-based social media company revealed in a federal court filing that it received a summons to reveal the identity of a Twitter account called @ALT_USCIS, “one of several so-called rogue Twitter accounts run by people claiming to be dissident current or former employees of the federal government,” as Mike Isaac writes. It is suing the federal government to block the unmasking of the anonymous user or users.
The Twitter account frequently criticizes the Trump administration’s immigration policies, and Twitter argues that the government’s request represents a “grave chilling effect” on anonymous criticism, which is protected by the First Amendment.
The company said the Department of Homeland Security, which along with Customs and Border Protection had issued the summons, did not explain why it wants to know the identity of the user. But civil libertarians worry the government is simply trying to stifle dissent.
On Friday, the government appeared to blink, dropping its summons for the information from Twitter. As a result, Twitter dropped its lawsuit. For the moment, at least, it appears Twitter won’t be ordered to reveal the identity of its user.
More tech news:
• China is investing in Silicon Valley start-ups with military applications at such a rapid rate that the United States government needs tougher controls to stem the transfer of promising technologies, a Pentagon report says.
• Does Uber really prevent drunken driving? It depends on the study. A recent study found that in four boroughs of New York City, excluding Staten Island, there has been a 25 to 35 percent reduction in alcohol-related car accidents since Uber came to town in 2011, as compared to other places where ride-hailing company doesn’t operate. But not all studies have reached the same conclusion.
• As anger at Bill O’Reilly builds, activists are using social media to prod advertisers. After a groundswell of online anger over reports that the Fox News host had settled with at least five women who accused him of harassment, more than 50 companies pulled their ads from Mr. O’Reilly’s popular prime time program.