Twitter Sues United States Government Over Violation Of First Amendment Rights

As a Twitter user, the last thing you probably think about is a lack of freedom of speech. The social media outlet appears to be the perfect vessel to share your thoughts on any subject between funny cats and world wide pandemics. Still, the company has filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in Northern California federal court against restrictions forced upon them in regards to sharing user-data related requests.

According to the lawsuit, Twitter is claiming that their First Amendment rights are being violated due to government restrictions that forbid them to release information regarding the number of national security letters and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders that are requested each year. Even when there are no requests the information cannot be legally shared at this point. Twitter’s reason for the lawsuit is to publish a “transparency report” in order to release the details.

Twitter Vice President, Ben Lee, explained the reason for the lawsuit in more detail,

“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,”

Lee continued to share his concerns,

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

The information that Twitter hopes to share with its users will not present specific information to those that review the report. Instead, it will act as a warning to the number of requests that are received, regardless of the outcome of the request. Twitter has already compiled a detailed transparency report, taking its users confidentiality into consideration, and hopes that the law will be overturned in order to release it publicly. According to the court filing, Twitter believes that the United States Government has overstepped its bounds by denying them their right to freedom of speech.

“When the government intrudes on speech, the First Amendment requires that it do so in the most limited way possible. The government has failed to meet this obligation.”

The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, sides with Twitter in the case, referring to the Constitution in his response.

“The Constitution doesn’t permit the government to impose so broad a prohibition on the publication of truthful speech about government conduct.”

It is unknown whether Twitter will be victorious, but knowing that the social media giant is working for its users is refreshing.

[Photo Courtesy: National Journal]