The pseudonymous Twitter @alt_uscis account, whose true identity is being sought by the Trump Administration, contacted Twitter in January to ask about verification for #altgov accounts, VentureBeat has learned.
What’s more, VentureBeat has learned of a coordinated effort by the operators of #altgov accounts to protect their anonymity.
Two operators of #altgov accounts and a source close to the matter have told VentureBeat that the #altgov accounts are in regular contact with each other. They communicate via “DM on Twitter, Slack, and using secure email,” said one of the #altgov account operators.
According to one of the #altgov account operators, they have six aims:
1- notify each other of any danger
2- keep each other aware of pertinent issues and help one another spread awareness about one issue or another
3- maintain some sort of unity when pushing a common cause to maximize coverage.
4- web also somewhat hold each other accountable .
6- we can also let lose and talk about non resistance stuff since most can relate to what we are going thru.
Last month, we published an “Open letter to Jack Dorsey: Verify #altgov Twitter accounts.” We reported that some #altgov accounts operated by current and federal employees sought help to distinguish themselves from illegitimate #altgov accounts sowing misinformation and, in some cases, seeking financial gain from the furor surrounding President Donald Trump’s new policies.
“For alt gov accounts, a mechanism for verification would be of assistance in maintaining the integrity of the alt voice,” said one of the #altgov account operators, who as a current federal employee requested anonymity. “Alt accounts are speaking different perspectives — some are run by current agency employees, some by former agency employees, and some by outside supporters.”
However, in January, @alt_uscis had contacted Twitter about obtaining verified status. “It was a phone conversation, stating basically the verification required either the name on the Twitter account to match the personal identity, or the organization name to match legal structure documents,” one of the #altgov account operators told VentureBeat.
“We obviously welcome [verification] since we are concerned others may create fake accounts to misinform people affected by immigration issues. It is one thing to tweet opinions about CO2, bears or stimulate, and another thing to put people at risk who are affected by unlawful anti immigration practices, “one of the #altgov account operators said. “We are a small group who have been working closely to find and delegitimize other #altgov accounts.”
However as reported by BuzzFeed, Twitter today filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the U.S.Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection from “demanding that Twitter provide them records that would unmask, or likely lead to unmasking, the identity of the person(s) responsible for the @ALT_USCIS account.”
The #altgov group’s top concern, “notify each other of any danger,” has been realized.
And Twitter’s response in the form of a lawsuit has, in part, also been realized. We wrote:
Although Twitter is not a journalistic enterprise in the traditional sense, it is a media company, and with that comes certain rights and obligations. While I’m not a lawyer, I’d expect your company can hire skilled attorneys to make a first amendment defense and protect the identities of those federal employees who risk their careers. Not only do you have the resources to fight subpoenas, but it’s a safe bet that your server farms are better protected than a PC in someone’s home.
Twitter’s lawsuit protecting the anonymity of @alt_uscis argues that “permitting CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT_USCIS account would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many other “alternative agency” accounts that have been created to voice dissent to government policies.”
“At this point we were told not to talk to the press and refer you to our ACLU attorneys,” one of the #altgov account operators told VentureBeat.
And as news of Twitter’s lawsuit spread, @alt_uscis tweeted:
This is one way to get verified..
— ALT🛂 Immigration (@ALT_uscis) April 6, 2017
You read can Twitter’s lawsuit here. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment