December 5, 2020

A federal judge has ordered Twitter to reveal the identity of an anonymous account linked to a conspiracy theory about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich

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  • A federal judge has ordered Twitter to hand over information about an anonymous account tied to a conspiracy theory about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich.
  • Since his death in 2016, Rich has been the subject of a conspiracy that claims, without evidence, that he was in communication with WikiLeaks prior to it dumping a trove of DNC emails, and that he was killed as part of a cover up. 
  • A subpoena filed by Rich’s brother, Aaron, earlier this year alleges that an account named @whyspertech supplied a forged FBI document linking Rich and WikiLeaks to Fox News, which was then cited in a since-retracted story promoting the conspiracy theory. 
  • Twitter has until October 20 to comply with the judge’s order. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment.  
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A federal judge has ruled that Twitter must reveal the identity of the user tied to a conspiracy theory involving murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. 

Rich was killed in 2016 in what Washington, DC, investigators have said they suspect was part of a robbery, though his death remains unsolved. Following Rich’s murder, however, a conspiracy theory emerged tying Rich to WikiLeaks’ dump of a trove of DNC emails, alleging, without evidence, that he was killed as part of a cover up. 

Fox News later ran a since-retracted story promoting the conspiracy theory, which was based partially off a forged FBI document. Rich’s brother, Aaron, alleges that an anonymous Twitter user called @whyspertech sent the document to Fox News.

Aaron Rich sent a subpoena to Twitter earlier this year, asking for information about the account, which Twitter fought to keep private, citing the account holder’s First Amendment rights. But US Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu denied Twitter’s request, ordering the company to hand over information about the account by October 20. 

A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the judge’s ruling. 

The judge’s ruling isn’t the first time Twitter has been ordered to hand over information about an anonymous account.

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security ordered Twitter to reveal the identity of an account that frequently criticized President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and may have been run by a federal employee. Twitter cited the user’s right to free speech in refusing to comply, and one day later, the government dropped its demand