I’d like to bring more attention to the recent debacle between Twitter and the U.S. government.

As I’m sure a lot of Portland Press Herald readers are aware, the Department of Homeland Security filed an order against Twitter demanding the release of the name of the person behind a popular, anonymous account that has gained its following by being critical of the Trump administration. Twitter’s response was to counter-sue, stating that the U.S. government was acting unlawfully and abusing power.

I very strongly supported Twitter in their bid to keep the user’s identity a secret, and I believe there are important lessons to be learned from the legal battle (which ended last week after the DHS withdrew its demand).

I am a third-year communications student at the University of Maine. In one of my classes, we’ve been discussing the implications of social media and its use in journalism and everyday lives. I feel the heat between Twitter and the U.S. government is an apt example of some of what we’ve been discussing. I think this Twitter account is the best example of how the ecology of media and journalism is always changing.

The Twitter account @ALT_ucis is a new form of citizen journalism. As Washington Post reporters Jessica Contrera and Katie Mettler told our class: “Journalism is always changing and always will be.” Governments have never liked a free press, but protecting it was a seminal act in forming ours.

Newspapers supplemented word of mouth, then radio, then television and now social media joins the mix. These are all forms of free speech and journalism.

I’d like to take this slot to ask people to show their support in protecting the new shape journalism is taking. Free speech and the ability to criticize our government are things that have always been important for the American people to keep safe.

Brian Messmer

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