Twitter Sues U.S. Government Over Surveillance Disclosures

Social network Twitter filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on Tuesday, seeking to bring more transparency to government surveillance. Twitter wants the government to ease restrictions on what tech companies can publicly disclose about the government’s national security-related requests for user data. The company alleges that these restrictions violate the company’s First Amendment rights. This is the latest in a series of battles over online national surveillance.

twitter54Currently, tech companies are allowed to publish data on government requests twice a year, but they’re not allowed to disclose the exact number of national-security related requests.

According to Twitter’s most recent transparency report, the micro-blogging site received over 2,000 requests for user account information from 54 different countries over a period of six months. That is a 46 percent increase in requests from the previous report.

“We’ve tried to achieve the level of transparency our users deserve without litigation, but to no avail,” said Ben Lee, a vice president for legal matters at Twitter, on the company’s blog.

In April, Twitter sent a draft of their transparency report to the government, but the FBI told the company that it contained classified information and effectively blocked the company from publishing it, according to The Washington Post.

Twitter has taken the issue to court less than a year after five major tech companies settled a similar matter out of court. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo reached an agreement with the government in January to allow the companies to report broad numerical ranges of how many national security letters — a form of administrative subpoena — they have received.

Twitter, however, still wants more transparency in a post-Edward Snowden world. The company receives requests for user data as part of government agencies’ ongoing investigations related to national security.