Twitter wants to be more open with users about government surveillance

Twitter has sued the US government in an effort to provide more information about national security requests for user data.

Twitter is restricted from saying more about government surveillance requests.
Twitter is restricted from saying more about government surveillance requests.

Twitter has sued the US government in an effort to provide more information about national security requests for user data.

The suit alleges that the government’s restrictions on public disclosures about surveillance requests are a violation of Twitter’s First Amendment rights.

Twitter explained the decision to go to court in a blog post written by legal VP Benjamin Lee on Tuesday. The social media company has asked the US District Court of Northern California to "declare these restrictions on our ability to speak about government surveillance as unconstitutional under the First Amendment," Lee said.

Like other tech firms such as Google, Twitter publishes a bi-annual transparency report that discloses a broad range of the number of government requests for user data that the company receives. But Twitter wants to publish its "full Transparency Report" and get more specific about the number of surveillance requests, Lee explained.

"It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First Amendment to respond to our users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of US government surveillance – including what types of legal process have not been received," he wrote. "We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges."

Twitter’s lawsuit is the latest development in the fight between the US government and tech companies over user privacy. Since last year, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked information revealing the agency’s surveillance of Internet users through its Prism program, tech giants have stepped up efforts asking for more transparency on surveillance activities.

In December, eight tech firms including Apple, Google, and Microsoft came together to launch a public campaign demanding new restrictions on government surveillance.

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