|DATE:||April 09, 2012|
|TO:||Mr. Dick Costolo
Chief Executive Officer
795 Folsom St., Suite 600
San Francisco, California 94107
The Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency responsible for administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, requests your assistance.
The USDA has determined that the sale or offer to sell SNAP benefits in public or online is an intentional program violation and has issued policy guidance to that effect (http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/2011/100411.pdf). We have received complaints that individuals are using Twitter accounts to post advertisements and make offers to buy or sell SNAP benefits.
SNAP benefits are United States Government obligations that are stored on state-issued Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. In accordance with Section 5 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 USC 2014, EBT cards with SNAP benefits are only issued to households that have been certified as eligible to participate in the program. SNAP benefits may only be used by a SNAP recipient to purchase eligible food, as defined in 7 USC 2012(k); any other use of SNAP benefits, including the posting of SNAP benefits for sale on the Internet, violates the Act and its regulations and, as stated above, may be subject to criminal penalties. See 7 USC 2024(b); 7 CFR 274.7(a).
We consulted with our Office of General Counsel and, based on those discussions, are hereby requesting that Twitter post a notice regarding the illegality of buying or selling SNAP benefits on its website and/or that the buying or selling of SNAP benefits be added to your Twitter Rules as a violation of those rules. Also, we ask for your assistance in monitoring activity on Twitter to identify and remove posts from individuals attempting to engage in buying or selling SNAP benefits, more commonly referred to by users of your service as "Food Stamps" or "EBT." In addition, while we realize that Twitter maintains a data use policy to protect the privacy of its users, we ask that if you have public information of the buyers and sellers' names, addresses and/or phone numbers, to please send the information to USDA and we will forward it to our Office of Inspector General for investigation.
We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.
Food and Nutrition Service