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Twitter sues US over anti-Trump account

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Twitter is suing the US government after it demanded it reveal the identity of an anti-Trump account.

The @ALT_USCIS profile was an anonymous profile account criticising President Trump’s immigration policy.

The account claimed it was being run by federal employees at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Twitter has requested a court block the Trump administration’s request, calling it a matter of free speech.

The challenge was filed in San Francisco, where the micro-blogging service is based.

“The rights of free speech afforded Twitter’s users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the US Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech,” the company argued.

It added that the government “may not compel Twitter to disclose information regarding the real identities of these users without first demonstrating that some criminal or civil offense has been committed”.

The move was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We are pleased to see Twitter standing up for its users’ rights, and the ACLU will soon be filing documents in court on behalf of this user,” the ACLU said in an emailed statement.

“To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification. But in this case the government has given no reason at all, leading to concerns that it is simply trying to stifle dissent.”

In January, when Donald Trump became President Trump, several so-called “alternative” accounts for US government services began appearing online.

Most claimed to be authored by current or former employees at those agencies, and they offered harsh criticisms of their new boss.

According to the filing, the government sought to use a power given to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – one typically used to obtain records relating to imported merchandise – to get detailed information on who was behind @ALT_USCIS.

The request asked for “all records regarding the twitter account @ALT_USCIS to conclude, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P addresses”.

It demanded Twitter hand over the information by 13 March 2017 – though the company was not actually sent the request until the 14th.

The account's profile image

In response, Twitter has told the court that “permitting the CBP to pierce the pseudonym of the @ALT _UCCIS 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”.

The account itself tweeted on Thursday the portion of the US Constitution that protects free speech.

The accounts were motivated by the gagging of the official National Parks Service Twitter account which, on the day of President Trump’s inauguration, retweeted a picture comparing his crowd size to that of President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. It was briefly shut down, before reappearing with an apology for the tweet.

According to press reports at the time, President Trump himself called the head of the National Parks Service to complain.

The furore prompted an apparent “rogue” former employee at the Badlands National Park in South Dakota to commandeer the park’s Twitter account to published a variety of statistics and facts relating to climate change.

The tweets were quickly removed and the former worker’s access revoked – but not before a flurry of new accounts claiming to be from within agencies appeared.

The veracity of the accounts was hard to verify given the authors insisted on keeping their identities secret in order to protect their jobs.

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Military patrols Ecuador’s capital as clashes resume and many defy curfew

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Armored military vehicles patrolled the streets of Ecuador’s capital, Quito, on Sunday after police and protesters clashed and many residents defied a curfew imposed by President Lenin Moreno in a bid to quell unrest triggered by fuel subsidy cuts.

Ecuadoreans posted videos on social media of burning road blockades and standoffs between crowds and security forces in downtown Quito ahead of the first round of talks aimed at ending 11 days of unrest.

The interior minister said a group of vandals had again set fire to the comptroller’s office and that some 500 people had defied police barriers in the city.

The unrest was the worst in the small South American country in more than a decade and the latest flashpoint of opposition to the International Monetary Fund in Latin America. Moreno has cast the dispute as a battle between Venezuela and other left-leaning forces and more market-friendly ideologies.

Nearly 60 roads in the city were closed, the municipal government said, without elaborating.

“Blocking roads is punishable by law and even more so during a curfew,” said councilman Bernardo Abad.

Indigenous protesters vowed to continue protests across the country until Moreno reinstates fuel subsidies, a sign that a potential breakthrough in the dispute announced on Saturday might fade under the government crackdown.

The first round of talks between indigenous leaders and the government was set to begin at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) in Quito, although no announcement had been made yet on who would take part or where exactly it would be held.

Moreno signed a $4.2 billion deal with the IMF earlier this year, angering many of his former supporters who voted for him as the left-leaning successor of his former ally, Rafael Correa.

Moreno has defended his decision last week to slash fuel subsidies as a key part of his bid to clean up the country’s finances, and denies it was required by the IMF.

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Algerians protest against proposed energy law

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Hundreds of Algerians protested in front of parliament on Sunday against proposed changes to the energy law that they say the caretaker government has no right to pass.

The draft law was agreed by the cabinet on Sunday, interim president Abdelkader Bensalah was quoted by state media as saying. It must still be approved by parliament.

Protesters said the law was draw up by the caretaker government to secure support of Western countries in a standoff over mass protests that have rocked Algeria for months. The government did not immediately comment.

“The draft will allow us to start deep reforms in the energy sector and implement a development plan for Sonatrach,” Bensalah said, referring to Algeria’s national energy company.

The law is aimed at attracting foreign investors to help Algeria strengthen its energy output and improve revenues using their superior technology, but would maintain a 49% limit on foreign ownership if passed into law by parliament.

Sonatrach has met several major international oil companies in recent months, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

“The current tax system does not allow Sonatrach to make new discoveries,” Mustapha Hanifi, the hydrocarbons director at the energy ministry, said at a conference on Sunday.

“We need to discover more oil and gas to ensure the country’s energy security and its revenues,” he added.

Algeria’s economy and state revenues are highly dependent on the energy sector, and foreign currency reserves have more than halved since oil prices began to drop in 2014.

The weekly mass protests since February have toppled veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and forced the authorities to detain many senior officials on corruption charges.

The army, which has emerged as the strongest power in Algeria since Bouteflika stepped down in April, hopes a presidential election panned for Dec. 12 will help quell the protests.

But demonstrators have said the vote cannot be free or fair if the military and senior officials tied to Bouteflika retain political power.

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