Twitter drops suit over ‘ALT_USCIS’ account after government withdraws summons

The federal government abandoned its effort to compel Twitter for information involving an anti-Trump account on Friday after its request spurred the social networking service to file suit. 

Twitter sued the Trump administration on Thursday in response to its previously unreported attempt to learn details about @ALT_USCIS, an account purportedly run by a a current employee of Citizenship and Immigration Services, but dropped its case a day later after the federal government withdrew its request, Twitter said in a court filing Friday.

The Justice Department told Twitter on Friday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has withdrawn its March 13 summons, “and that the summons no longer has any force or effect.”

“Because the summons has now been withdrawn, Twitter voluntary dismisses without prejudice all claims against Defendants,” an attorney for the company wrote Friday.

Twitter disclosed for the first time a day earlier that CBP had issued a summons last month seeking information about @ALT_USCIS, including internet protocol (IP) addresses and other account activity that could potentially reveal the identity of the person or persons who oversee the account — one of several that alleges to provide “alternative” views into Trump administration agencies.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the government over its request Thursday on Twitter’s behalf and applauded the next day’s developments.

“The speed with which the government buckled shows just how blatantly unconstitutional its demand was in the first place,” ACLU attorney Esha Bhandari said Friday. “Speaking anonymously about issues of the day is a longstanding American tradition, dating back to when the framers of the Constitution wrote under pseudonyms. 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.”

Twitter declined to comment beyond the filing, and a federal spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the New York Times reported Friday.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, others weren’t as silent. The Senate Finance Committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, called the government’s request “a disturbing threat to free speech and whistleblower protections.”

“Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the summon,” Mr. Wyden wrote Friday to the CBP’s acting director, “…I request that you conduct an internal review in why and how CBP issued the summons and report on the results of that review.”

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