In an effort to break free from the Justice Department’s restrictions on how transparent Twitter can be about national security requests for user data, the company has sued the U.S. government.
Per an online statement by Ben Lee, Twitter vice president:
“We’ve tried to achieve the level of transparency our users deserve without litigation, but to no avail. In April, we provided a draft Transparency Report addendum to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a report which we hoped would provide meaningful transparency for our users. After many months of discussions, we were unable to convince them to allow us to publish even a redacted version of the report.”
According to a Washington Post story on the suit, currently, tech firms can broadly report on the number of government requests they receive; for example: zero to 999. Twitter, however, would like to provide an exact number; even if it is zero.
The suit asserts that the government forces Twitter either to release preapproved speech or not speak at all; that the government has not provided the authority for preapproval or restriction; and that this practice is unconstitutional.
Again, per Twitter Vice President Lee’s statement:
“It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of U.S. government officials by providing information about the scope of U.S. government surveillance — including what types of legal process have not been received. We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges.”
We will see if the company’s First Amendment case takes flight. What do you think in 140 characters or more?