There’s a new kind of cyberwar taking place across the United States. We’ve learned that Russia apparently meddled in the U.S. election, planting lies and exaggerating developments against Hillary Clinton in cyberspace. Now, the resistance to the Trump administration – including his immigration policies – is playing out on Twitter. Some of the cyber-shots are being fired from alternative government accounts.
After Trump announced plans to crack down on social media postings, control information and defund agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Park Service, rogue accounts sprang up on Twitter.
It all started with @AltNatParkSer. The National Park Service showed pictures of President Trump’s inauguration crowds, which were not as “bigly” as the new administration say they were. The Trump administration then ordered the NPS to stop posting the pictures comparing Trump’s and Obama’s crowds. Thus, the rogue Twitter account was born.
Now, there are dozens of alternative government accounts.
A word of caution: The information on these accounts is not verified. Therefore, their content should be taken with a good measure of caution. All the accounts are anonymous, but a few seem to come from actual rogue government employees. Most of them are posting and re-posting articles and information critical of the White House and Trump.
One of these Twitter accounts, @ALT_USCIS, is posting immigration-related content like the following:
Today we give you facts about some visa overstays for 2015 and from what countries. none have been affected by current ICE raids-USCIS DOC pic.twitter.com/7wdP3GuvP0
— ALT🛂 Immigration (@ALT_uscis) February 12, 2017
In March, the Trump administration sought to unmask @ALT_USCIS by demanding identifying information about the person behind the account like phone number(s), mailing address(es) and IP addresses associated with it.
Twitter responded by filing a lawsuit to protect its users’ right of anonymous free speech, arguing that the unmasking of @ALT_USCIS could have a chilling effect on free speech. The lawsuit was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Additionally, Twitter rejected CBP’s request to not reveal the government’s summons “for an indefinite period of time” in its effort to cover the government’s censorship.
— ALT🛂 Immigration (@ALT_uscis) April 7, 2017
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet and privacy rights group, said through its staff attorney Andrew Croker, “The government must not be able to use its formidable investigatory powers to intimidate and silence its critics.”