Twitter has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, “seeking to publish our full Transparency Report, and asking the court to declare these restrictions on our ability to speak about government surveillance as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.”
Ben Lee, the company’s legal VP, writes in a 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 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.
The AP reports:
Twitter’s filing follows lawsuits by Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and others to gain permission to share more information on surveillance requests with the public. The government has said that it will publish the total number of national security requests for customer data annually. But Microsoft and Google maintain that they should be able to break out how often the feds request specific user content, such as email conversations, for example, from how often they demand subscriber data associated with an email address.
The fight for the right to even talk about surveillance requests has proven difficult for tech companies, never mind the fight against those requests in the first place. The Washington Post’s Craig Timberg reported last month that Yahoo was threatened in 2008 with a $250,000-per-day fine “if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications.”
Companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have called for government surveillance reform.