Twitter Suit: Gov't Won't Let Us Talk About Data Requests

Tech giant's complaint says restrictions violate its First Amendment rights
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2014 2:38 PM CDT
Twitter Suit: Gov't Won't Let Us Talk About Data Requests
Twitter has sued the US government for limiting what it can say about user data requests.   (Shutterstock)

First rule about government requests for information: Don't talk about government requests for information. That's one rule Twitter doesn't want to play by, leading to a lawsuit filed today that claims the US government is violating the company's First Amendment rights by forcing it to keep quiet about what user data has been requested in the alleged name of national security, the Washington Post reports. Although current reporting rules allow Twitter to inform the public about requests in "broad" terms, Twitter wants to assure its users on the privacy front by being able to give exact numbers and show the "limited scope" of surveillance on its service.

Part of the problem lies in an agreement the government reached in January with five other tech behemoths—Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Yahoo—that Twitter doesn't think it has to completely adhere to, since it doesn't receive the large number of requests those other companies do (and most Twitter posts are public anyway, the Post notes). But although there's no comment yet from the Justice Department regarding Twitter's 19-page complaint, "government officials" have reportedly said in the past that the FBI and NSA have to keep their methods, including specific numbers, on the down-low to effectively keep the country safe; these officials are also claiming extra efforts at transparency over the last few months via the "release of thousands of pages of redacted court and government documents." Twitter's complaint notes that the government's stand “forces Twitter either to engage in speech that has been preapproved by government officials or else to refrain from speaking altogether.” (More Twitter stories.)

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