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> The law is not on twitter's side.

Could you cite the law you're thinking of? Simply claiming to be a federal agent to set the context for a discussion is very different from claiming to be one and then acting under the authority of that pretended identity.




Sure: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/931

> Any claimant or representative of a claimant who knowingly and willfully makes a false statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or payment under this chapter shall be guilty of a felony...

or alternatively: http://www3.ce9.uscourts.gov/jury-instructions/node/508

The threshold of "obtaining a benefit" or "obtained thing of value" is pretty low. Is a massive Twitter following a benefit? Is positive press coverage or access a benefit or valuable?

Alternatively, this person is a federal employee and they've been actively working against their boss and employer (aka POTUS).

Either way, the outcome isn't good for them.


Your first link is from Title 33, Chapter 18, which is titled "LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION". The words "federal" and "agent" appear nowhere in it, so... I think not. Maybe this is what you're looking for (as referred to in your second link):

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/912

> The threshold of "obtaining a benefit" or "obtained thing of value" is pretty low. Is a massive Twitter following a benefit? Is positive press coverage or access a benefit or valuable?

Absolutely ridiculous. If you want to play these sorts of word games, though, I might point out that this person is not pretending (or not) "to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof". They are not pretending (or not) to act under any authority. Anyone can post whatever they like on Twitter (at Twitter's discretion and according to their TOS).

In other words, it would be illegal to flash a fake badge at someone and then tell them you'll take them to jail if they don't follow you on Twitter, but that's not what this is.

> Alternatively, this person is a federal employee and they've been actively working against their boss and employer (aka POTUS).

On their own time and using their own device(s), presumably. Is this illegal?


Oops, you're right on the first link. Sorry about that.

> On their own time and using their own device(s), presumably. Is this illegal?

Since they're discussing official matters, it's probably illegal. Federal employees are always covered by rules concerning their engagement with the press and public communications.

Just like if you spoke on behalf of your company and/or leaked internal information, they could definitely sue you and potentially get you arrested (depending on the details). When your employer are the Feds, they can usually skip the "sue you" step.


Right now, the account includes this in its "about" text:

> Not the views of DHS or USCIS

Whether or not that's always been there, I think it's probably always been true for this account. It's somebody saying "I work at <agency>, and here are some opinions and publicly available information". So really all they're guilty of is being publicly negative about their employer. That's not illegal for employees of corporations, and I'd be really surprised if it was illegal for employees of the government (but I haven't looked into it).

Of course, corporations and the government might like to fire employees who do this, and they'd be within their rights to do so (I think, in general) but if said employees are anonymous then they don't know who to fire, and if speaking freely is perfectly legal then they have no grounds to compel Twitter (or whoever) to unmask the account.


In most roles of federal law enforcement and/or the intelligence community, you aren't allowed to speak to the press or make public statements without express consent of your communications team. You don't get to "talk negatively about your employer" and you sign agreements to that effect going in.

And it doesn't take sharing classified information to get in trouble. Pointing someone to public information validates them as accurate - including whatever conjecture included - and counts.

I spent time in the intelligence community. Your opinion and my opinion don't matter.. only the law, the agreements in place, and the tenacity of those who choose to enforce them and to what degree.


> only the law, the agreements in place

These are the only things I'm interested in. My personal opinions aside, I'm genuinely curious whether the government has a legitimate legal leg to stand on here. The reason I'm still replying is that none of those you've suggested have been terribly convincing.

Whether anonymous political speech by someone claiming to be an employee of the federal government but not acting in an official capacity is or is not a violation of the Hatch Act or any other applicable law (dubious) or any agreement they may have signed as a condition of employment is one question. Whether the fact that this individual has claimed anonymously to be a federal employee can compel Twitter to release their personal details on the basis of an assumption that either or both of the aforementioned factors (laws, agreements) will apply to them is another question entirely. While they're anonymous, how would you know which agreement they signed, if any? How would you know whether they are actually a federal employee?

"Tenacity" aside, this seems like the most plausible theory yet, but still a stretch. But I am not a lawyer.

edit: this update is relevant: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/04/07...




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