Twitter believes that users who are critical of the government should be able to voice that criticism anonymously.
Twitter filed suit against the U.S. government on Thursday in an effort to block the unmasking of an anonymous Twitter user who has been posting messages criticizing the government and current administration.
According to Twitter, it received a notice from the government requiring it to reveal the identity of a Twitter user going under the handle @ALT_uscis. The account is allegedly one of several set up by people claiming to be ex-government employees or current employees, and is particularly critical of recent immigration policies.
So why the lawsuit? Twitter argues that it was not compelled to reveal the identity of the account holder, and that the request was both unreasonable and unlawful. On top of that, Twitter suggests that unveiling the identity of the user would set a dangerous precedent for the freedom of speech of many so-called “alt-accounts” that have popped up over the past few months in resistance to U.S. government practices.
“A time-honored tradition of pseudonymous free speech on matters of public moment runs deep in the political life of America,” said Twitter in the filing. “These First Amendment interests are at their zenith when, as here, the speech at issue touches on matters of public political life.”
The lawsuit sets the government and Twitter up for a clash over digital privacy — which is an issue that has come up against the current administration and U.S. government before. The issue could eventually even rival the Apple vs FBI case from last year, in which the FBI asked Apple to unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter. After Apple refused, arguing that it set a dangerous precedent for future cases, the FBI found another way to hack into the phone without Apple’s help.
The anonymous user behind the account at issue will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
We’ll update this story as we hear more on the case.