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Browser automation. US govt ceases fire in legal spat with Twitter to unmask anti-Trump ‘immigration official’

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Twitter and the US government’s game of chicken over an anonymous anti-Trump tweeter is over before it barely began.

The Department of Homeland Security today dropped its lawsuit against the social network that demanded the identity of an allegedly “rogue” immigration official blasting the president via the @Alt_USCIS account.

This comes one day after Twitter sued Uncle Sam to stop Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents from obtaining detailed account information on Alt_USCIS – the “rogue” account that portrays itself as a renegade insider within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As a result of the US government’s U-turn, Twitter told the Northern California District Court it will no longer need to continue its suit.

“On April 7, 2017, counsel for Defendants from the Department of Justice contacted counsel for Twitter, to advise that US Customs and Border Protection has withdrawn the summons and that the summons no longer has any force or effect,” Twitter wrote in its motion to dismiss [PDF].

“Because the summons has now been withdrawn, Twitter voluntarily dismisses without prejudice all claims against Defendants in the above captioned matter.”

Backers of the suit, including the ACLU, hailed the move as a victory for free speech.

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BREAKING: Trump administration backs down from unconstitutional push to unmask @ALT_uscis. Big victory for free speech and right to dissent.

— ACLU National (@ACLU) April 7, 2017

We want to thank @twitter and @aclu for standing up for the right of free anonymous speech. Thank you resistance for standing up for us.

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— ALT🛂 Immigration (@ALT_uscis) April 7, 2017

Twitter said in its (now dismissed) complaint that a CBP agent showed up at its San Francisco headquarters and invoked a clause in US import laws that would have allowed the official to obtain information on the identity of the person behind Alt_USCIS.

The Twitter lawsuit alleged that not only was the order to unmask its user a first amendment violation, but was in no way related to powers granted by US Code § 1509, which concerns taxation of imported goods.

Apparently the DHS agreed, or at least decided that unmasking the rebel account was not worth a prolonged legal battle at the moment. For the time being, at least, “rogue” government tweeters have prevailed. ®

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