Twitter sues DoJ to release full secret gov't data demand figures

Twitter posits that even if the government requests zero national security letters, it wants the freedom to disclose that information.


When Twitter released its last transparency report back in July, the company lamented the amount of government roadblocks it faced while pushing its agenda for further transparency.

But the micro-blogging site is lamenting no more. The company has decided to take legal action.

On Tuesday, Twitter's legal vice president Ben Lee said in a blog post that the company has filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to publish Twitter's full transparency report without legal ramifications. The suit aims to disclose the actual scope of surveillance of Twitter users by the US government.

Lee said Twitter tried to achieve its desired level of transparency without litigation, but obviously failed. In April, Lee said Twitter provided a draft transparency report addendum to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — but the company was unable to convince either government agency to allow them to publish even a redacted version of the report.

Lee added in the blog post:

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. We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad, inexact ranges.

Lee said Twitter will continue to fight for comprehensive reform of government surveillance powers in the US by supporting the proposed USA Freedom Act of 2014, which was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.

Twitter's latest move seems to expand on similar battles being fought by a handful of other tech giants. In September, Yahoo said it was threatened by the US government with $250,000 in daily fines over data requests dating back to 2008. Also in September, Microsoft refused to hand over foreign data to government agencies and was found in contempt of court.

The software giant insisted that data held in its Dublin, Ireland datacenter was untouchable by a US search warrant.

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