Twitter withdraws lawsuit against Trump administration

Updated: A government agency has dropped its bid to obtain the identity of a tweeting critic who claims to work for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In a new court filing [PDF] Twitter says that earlier today, lawyers from the Department of Justice contacted the company's attorneys to "advise that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has withdrawn the summons and that the summons no longer has any force or effect". This is a freedom of speech issue. That said, an explanation was not provided, Homeland Security asked for Twitter to keep the summons secret, and ultimately the whole thing fell apart in less than 24 hours.

"We're glad Twitter is pushing back". "The rights of free speech afforded to Twitter's users and Twitter itself under the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous free speech", the company said in the lawsuit.

Following Trump's election, a handful of popular "rogue" Twitter accounts sprang up, purporting to be run by disgruntled employees of federal agencies. Many of these Twitter handles were created after owners of two official federal agency Twitter handles were allegedly reprimanded for sharing messages with vague anti-Trump rhetoric. Trump had apparently criticized the National Park Service's tweeted crowd estimates at his inauguration. The social media site was highly critical of Trump's controversial Muslim ban.

Updated at 1:20 report that the summons and the lawsuit have been withdrawn; updated at 1:51 update the number of Twitter followers.

Preserving the right to air dissenting views anonymously is "especially important", given that a federal employee could face retaliation, sanctions or other consequences for exercising his or her First Amendment rights, Twitter agued in its 25-page complaint.

In 2012, the company fought back after a NY state court order demanded it share the account information of an Occupy Wall Street protester arrested during a 2011 protest in Brooklyn. Twitter charged Thursday that efforts by the government to "unmask" the people behind the account violate the First Amendment.

This new lawsuit is only the most current chapter in a turbulent relationship between Twitter and Trump. "To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification".

Twitter also accused the government of attempting to "stifle dissent".



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