Government gives up on unmasking anti-Trump Twitter account

It's only been a day since Twitter made its legal response.


Well, that was fast: just yesterday, we learned that the Trump administration was attempting to compel Twitter to reveal information about an account critical of the president's policies. Today, according to Recode, the government has officially dropped that request, prompting Twitter to discontinue its own lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and US Customs and Border Protection.

When asked for comment on today's developments, Twitter simply provided us with the filing withdrawing its lawsuit:

On April 6, 2017, Twitter filed a Complaint in the above-captioned matter. On April 7, 2017, counsel for Defendants from the Department of Justice contacted counsel for Twitter, to advise that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has withdrawn the summons and that the summons no longer has any force or effect. Because the summons has now been withdrawn, Twitter voluntarily dismisses without prejudice all claims against Defendants in the above captioned matter.

This legal back-and-forth began back in March when agent Adam Hoffman of US Customs and Border Protection issued a summons in which Twitter was asked to provide "all records regarding the Twitter account @ALT_USCIS," belonging to a vocal Trump critic that monitors the current administration's immigration-related failings. The fax gets more specific, too: when Hoffman said "all records," he was specifically referring to "account logins, phone numbers, mailing addresses and IP addresses."

Naturally, this is information that could very easily be used to unmask the owner of the @ALT_USCIS account for... well, for what we're not really sure. The CBP summons made no reference why an agent wanted to access this personal data.

Twitter officially informed @ALT_USCIS a few days ago and responded to the summons with a lawsuit filed yesterday. In it, Twitter's attorneys argued that "permitting CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT_USCIS account would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many other 'alternative agency' accounts that have been created to voice dissent to government policies."

It seems highly possible that the amount of public scrutiny this investigation has attracted is what led to its (temporary?) demise, especially when you consider the part of the initial summons that kindly asks Twitter not to disclose the summons' existence for an "indefinite period of time." Either way, this bodes well for everyone else running one of those alt agency accounts -- especially any federal employees who secretly dabble in Trump-bashing on the side.