Twitter sues U.S. government in fight over citizens’ privacy

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 6 years ago

Twitter is suing the Department of Justice to reveal how much information the government requested from the social media network. The lawsuit continues the battle between the Internet and the government about Americans’ online privacy.

“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, ” said Twitter vice-president Ben Lee in a blog post on the website.

After whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the government was collecting Americans’ online data, Internet companies have been fighting to reveal the extent of government surveillance.

Google and Microsoft reached agreements with the government to reveal information about information requests. They can reveal how many requests they received from the government for information twice a year, but can’t state the exact number.

“Earlier this year, the government addressed similar concerns raised in a lawsuit brought by several major tech companies,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce.

“The parties worked collaboratively to allow tech companies to provide broad information on government requests while also protecting national security,” added Pierce.

Civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed dismay that Google and Microsoft compromised with the government. “EFF and a number of privacy and free-speech organizations expressed our profound disappointment that the companies dropped their lawsuit for so little,” said Nate Cardozo, an EFF attorney.

Twitter also criticized the compromise in its complaint against the Justice Department. “These restrictions constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint and content-based restriction on, and government viewpoint discrimination against, Twitter’s right to speak about information of national and global public concern,” stated the complaint.

Twiiter maintains in its lawsuit that it is different from Google and Microsoft, so it should not be bound by the same restrictions. The social media giant makes most of their posts public, unlike the private e-mails of Internet companies like Google.

Twitter also stated in its complaint against the government that it does not receive a lot of requests for information, so it should be free to share the number of requests, even if’s zero.

“The U.S. government has taken the position that service providers like Twitter are even prohibited from saying that they have received zero national security requests, or zero of a particular type of national security request,” said Twitter in its complaint.