Twitter Takes U.S Government to Court

The San Francisco-based microblogging giant Twitter, is the next on the list of tech companies that have taken action to sue the U.S government. They allege that the U.S Justice Department has set restrictions on them, when requesting user data violates the First Amendment.

Twitter Vice President Ben Lee said in an online post, "It's our belief that we are entitled under the 1st 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."

Originally, tech firms are only allowed to report government data requests in broad numbers, such as from zero to 999. Twitter is hoping with the lawsuit, they are able to disclose a "full transparency" report with the exact numbers.

In July, Twitter stated the international data requests have jumped from 1,410 from July 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013, to 2,058 from January through June of this year. Twitter presumes the high number of requests are due to their "ongoing international expansion", with about 60 percent of the requests coming from the United States.

In a 19-page complaint, the tech firm states it "forces Twitter either to engage in speech that has been pre-approved by government officials or else to refrain from speaking altogether."

In April, Twitter sent the U.S government a draft copy with the request to be reviewed for full publication. This attempt was shot down in September, with FBI General Counsel James A. Baker responded to Twitter lawyer Michael Sussmann in a letter saying, "We have carefully reviewed Twitter's proposed transparency report and have concluded that information contained in the report is classified and cannot be publicly released."

The government's reasoning behind the refusal to disclose the exact numbers of such requests, are to defend the nation from security threats. The more public the security measures are, the higher risk there is to a national security breach.

Last year, other tech giants such as Google and Microsoft had sued the U.S government, claiming that their First Amendment rights have also been violated. The Obama Administration agreed to loosen up the disclosure rules in a settlement. In return, the firms dropped their respective cases.