Twitter Sues For Right To Disclose Details Of Government Surveillance Requests

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Twitter on Tuesday filed suit against the FBI and the Justice Department, seeking the ability to release detailed information on government surveillance of Twitter users.

“We’ve tried to achieve the level of transparency our users deserve without litigation, but to no avail,” Twitter said in a blog post announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court.

Like other major tech companies, Twitter releases reports disclosing how many government requests it receives for information on its users. But the reports are vague because Twitter is barred by law from disclosing more details on government surveillance requests.

Twitter is asking a judge for permission to publish its full transparency report, including the number of so-called “national security letters” and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders that it receives. Twitter claims that restrictions on its ability to speak about government surveillance requests are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

“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,” Twitter said in its post. “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges.”

In July, Twitter said it received 2,058 requests for information on its users over the previous six months from governments around the world — a 46 percent increase. More than 60 percent of those requests came from the U.S. government.

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