Free Minds & Free Markets

Should the Feds 'Unmask' Anonymous Political Speech?: New at Reason

casanova.frankenstein/flickrcasanova.frankenstein/flickrUnmasking anonymous Twitter users who discuss politics is like demanding "dark money" donors disclose their identities for supporting political speech.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Last week the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection division demanded that Twitter reveal the identity of the person behind an account that has been criticizing the Trump administration. The agency had no authority to issue such a demand, and quickly retracted it. But you could not have scripted a better incident to confirm the worst fears of Trump administration critics about its neo-fascist tendencies.

As a Washington Post story last week noted, Twitter's "primary objection, the company said, is that allowing the government to unmask Twitter critics violates the Constitution's First Amendment right to free speech... That right, the company said, is particularly important when discussing political speech. 'First Amendment interests are at their zenith when, as here, the speech at issue touches on matters of public political life,' [Twitter's court] filing said."

Twitter fretted that the demand "may reflect the very sort of official retaliation that can result from speech that criticizes government officials and agencies."

Civil libertarians were—quite properly—outraged.

But that's not always the case.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online