Just one day after being sued in federal court, the Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn its order to unmask the @Alt_USCIS account, a harshly critical account nominally run by an anonymous Homeland Security staffer. In March, two agents of Customs and Border Protection had served Twitter with an order for IP logs, phone numbers, and other identifying information associated with the account. Twitter declined to comply with the request, and argued in its complaint that the order was unconstitutional, and relied on an unconventional statute insufficient for unmasking an individual user.
Now, that order is being withdrawn. Twitter learned of the withdrawal in a meeting with the Department of Justice earlier today, and has subsequently withdrawn its lawsuit. Reached by The Verge, the company declined to comment.
It’s unclear whether the government will make further attempts to unmask the user. Because the March order was made by Customs agents, it relied on an unusual statute largely related to taxes on the importation of merchandise, which Twitter argued was insufficient. If the Department of Justice is committed to unmasking the user, it might request a court order for the same information under a statute that’s more in-line with Twitter’s law enforcement guidelines, which acknowledge that private information may be disclosed in response to a valid legal request.
@Alt_USCIS is one of a number of “rogue” accounts that have sprung up under President Trump, offering a critical perspective on the policies of the new administration. It is unclear which if any of the accounts are genuine, but they have drawn both attention and scrutiny as the administration has sought to crack down on unauthorized leaks to the press.