Homeland Security's Trump Twitter Fiasco Has Led to an Internal Investigation

The Post Turtle
On March 14th, the US Customs and Border Protection sent a summons to Twitter. Among other things, it requested information about a particular account - @alt_USCIS. Said account is one of the various 'rogue' Twitter profiles which posts revealing and negative information about the Trump cabinet and their policies, in this case someone working at Citizenship and Immigration.

Earlier this month, Twitter took the issue to federal court, drawing the legality of such a request into sharp question. In particular, the request wanted the real identity of the account's creator to be identified. It's hard not to see why some might regard that as a violation of personal privacy. One day after the lawsuit was called, Homeland Security withdrew the request.

Now, Homeland Security are actually investigating CBP to figure out if the summons constituted an abuse of power, as well as "potential broader misuse of the Department". This is the first time since Trump's inauguration that a governmental body has faced investigation for anything to do with social media, and it's a first for the USA in general. Homeland rarely have to investigate themselves, and even in that regard, this is rather unusual.

Interestingly, Inspector General John Roth used the exact same adjective to describe the effect of the summons on Twitter users as Twitter themselves in his letter - "chilling". This is clearly a matter that Homeland are taking very seriously, which says a great deal about the disparities between the government's goals and the US constitution.

National authorities ask Twitter for account info all the time, you can see how much in their transparency report, but it's usually tied to criminal cases. The user in question committed no crime, as such, they merely used the account to criticise US foreign policy, mainly through sharing articles. It could be suggested that what the CBP staff in question were doing was a violation of freedom of speech. Strongly suggested.

This is unlikely to be the last case of its kind to flare up during the Trump presidency. Now that he's running the US, threatening to sue his critics is a far riskier move, and he's accrued more critics than ever. While the laws surrounding information access on social media are still very loose, there's no arguing with the fact that someone's personal information is exactly that unless you can identify them as a genuine threat.

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