Twitter’s lawsuit against the U.S. government over the right to fully disclose national security requests has gotten the nod from a U.S. judge, despite attempts by the Justice Department to derail it.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Thursday ruled the lawsuit, a bid by Twitter to have restrictions lifted on the information it can release to the public, had merit. The Justice Department’s arguments, did not, the judge wrote in her ruling.
“The Government has not presented evidence, beyond a generalized explanation, to demonstrate that disclosure of the information in the Draft Transparency Report would present such a grave and serious threat of damage to national security as to meet the applicable strict scrutiny standard,” Gonzalez Rogers wrote.
The social network, which filed the lawsuit in October of 2014, accused the federal government of violating the First Amendment’s free speech clause by preventing it from being completely transparent with its users.
“Our ability to speak has been restricted by laws that prohibit and even criminalize a service providers like us from disclosing the exact number of national security letters (“NSLs”) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) court orders received — even if that number is zero,” legal counsel Ben Lee said in a blog post at that time.
“It’s our belief that we are entitled under the First 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 – 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.”
Twitter and other tech firms have argued that they should have the right to post in their bi-annual transparency reports the exact number of national security letters and FISA court orders they receive.
Twitter is not the first company to sue the United States over the matter. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others won the right back in January of 2014 to either report a 0-999 figure for all FISA letters or report the FISA letters lumped in with other type of security requests.
Companies have complained that concession does not go far enough, however. If Twitter is successful and wins the right to post the exact number of NSLs received, it is likely other companies will follow suit.