This story is being reported in the online and print editions of The Washington Post, with more to follow.
A top US homeland security official sharply criticized Twitter’s recent decision to block accounts of New Mexico State Department of Education officials, including agency spokesperson Toby Twine, in his strongest public condemnation of the social media giant’s recent censorship and response to the agency’s efforts to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and remarks.
In a letter to Twitter’s chief executive officer, Jack Dorsey, Tom Bossert, homeland security’s assistant secretary for operations, said the culture of cooperation between Twitter, law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security has been undermined over the past few months with numerous accounts accessed by the agency’s personnel.
Bossert said all of these accounts have violated federal law enforcement standards because Twitter excluded them from its updated “Account Protection Standards,” which govern when and where terrorism suspects should be served.
“We believe this decision poses a threat to national security and a chilling effect on legitimate law enforcement communications, including communications with federal, state and local law enforcement partners,” Bossert wrote.
Earlier this month, Twine sent a series of letters to Twitter requesting that Twitter extend the three-day “green light” from now until the end of November that federal employees have had since 2016 for updating their Twitter accounts. During these nearly three months, Twine has been denied until now access to such accounts.
“Your continued denial to allow organizations and individual employees at the State Department to use Twitter illustrates how badly your workplace and public policy commitments have not aligned,” Twine wrote in the October 9 letter.“We understand that no one should be denied access to twitter in this manner,” Twine wrote. “But we also know that our inability to update our Twitter accounts can and should be used as an impediment to our work or use of Twitter.”
On Monday, Bossert posted Twine’s Twitter account, which includes the agency’s educational arm’s Twitter handle, @StateDevTeams, on the social media site. But Bossert sent his own letter to Twitter, which said that Twine’s account had been deleted.
“Whilst Twitter prohibits the posting of account information, tweeting or commenting on tweets regarding the state department of education is authorized,” the letter said. “It is our understanding that Twitter would not allow the State Department of education’s Twitter account to be configured to display those information on that account.“Even so, @StateDevTeams posted a message on Twitter on September 28, 2018, inviting undocumented students from Noyes and other campuses in New Mexico to volunteer their time and resources at other schools and time on behalf of the students. The State Department of education acknowledged the tweet but has indicated that the tweet was not authorized or provided authority for dissemination.”
Bossert said a student who had been flagged by Twitter during the three-month grace period had used the account to retweet a tweet by a DHS official on the use of drones. Bossert said the use of Twitter by Twine as part of his investigation was “potentially relevant” to his decision to remove the account from Twitter.
An official with the New Mexico State Department of Education could not be reached for comment.“As you know, Twitter has similar policies related to accounts used for personal communication to personnel at the state, local and federal levels,” Bossert said. “Regardless of the channel, we believe the public has a right to know the content of these interactions with the federal government.” — — — Follow Story Caught in the Loop on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WASHING… and The Wall Street Journal on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WSJ/