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Twitter Drops Lawsuit Against U.S., After Government Scraps Effort to Identify Anti-Trump User

Variety logo Variety 4/7/2017 Todd Spangler
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Twitter on Friday dropped its lawsuit against the U.S. government that had sought to block the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to discover who is behind a Twitter account critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, according to a court filing.

That came after the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection division withdrew its summons to the social-media company demanding the information, according to Twitter’s federal court filing.

Twitter had sued the Trump administration Thursday over attempts by the DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to discover the identity of the user behind @ALT_USCIS, which has criticized the immigration policy of the current administration since it was created in January 2017.

“The speed with which the government buckled shows just how blatantly unconstitutional its demand was in the first place,” Esha Bhandari, one of the American Civil Liberties Union attorneys who is representing the user, said in a statement released Friday. “The anonymity that the First Amendment guarantees is often most essential when people criticize the government, and this free-speech right is as important today as ever.”

In a tweet Friday, ALT_USCIS thanked Twitter and the ACLU for their support in fighting the government’s probe.

The lawsuit, which Twitter filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, had alleged that the DHS tried to use a “limited-purpose investigatory tool” to find out who is behind the account in question. “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.

The @ALT_USCIS account is among multiple “alt-government” Twitter accounts that have cropped up since Trump’s inauguration.

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