Twitter sues federal government following secret surveillance of users

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday in an attempt to release its full report on the number of surveillance requests the government asked the company for.
By Clint Huston | Jan 08, 2016
Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday in an attempt to release its full report on the number of surveillance requests the government asked the company for.

Twitter published a Transparency Report in July that disclosed global trends regarding worldwide requests for sharing user's information with a sovereign government (either willingly or unwillingly), but the company was barred legally from sharing any information about the number and volume of US government requests-- even if there are none.

So today Twitter announced a lawsuit against the government requesting the right to disclose the information to the public.

"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, " the company said in a blog post announcing the lawsuit. "We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges."

The crux of Twitter's argument claims that while the U.S. government participates in "extensive but incomplete" discussions about its national security breadth, coercing companies such as Twitter to follow the same opaque communications with its users is a violation of 1st Amendment rights. Twitter argues that the company should be allowed to make its own "informed perspective" as a "potential" company requested to provide customer data for national security reasons.

"We've tried to achieve the level of transparency our users deserve without litigation, but to no avail," the post said. "After many months of discussions, we were unable to convince them to allow us to publish even a redacted version of the report."

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