Twitter Says DOJ's Settlement On National Security Requests Not Good Enough; It Will Fight For The Right To Disclose
from the good-for-twitter dept
We pointed out last week that the feds had reached a settlement with a bunch of tech companies that had sued the government on First Amendment grounds over their ability to release details of numbers of FISA requests and National Security Letters they had received. Twitter was not a part of that lawsuit, and while it has released its own transparency report, it has also come out strongly for more transparency, saying that the settlement deal is not nearly good enough and that it is pushing back on the government's limitations and considering picking up the First Amendment fight that Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Linkedin dropped.
Obviously, Twitter is used more for public communications than private communications, so it's likely that it receives less attention on these issues, but it's great to see the company continue its strong history of standing up for its users' right to basic due process, and being quite explicit about its stance. Once again, Twitter deserves kudos where other companies have fallen short.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice and various communications providers reached an agreement allowing disclosure of national security requests in very large ranges. While this agreement is a step in the right direction, these ranges do not provide meaningful or sufficient transparency for the public, especially for entities that do not receive a significant number of – or any – national security requests.
As previously noted, we think it is essential for companies to be able to disclose numbers of national security requests of all kinds – including national security letters and different types of FISA court orders – separately from reporting on all other requests. For the disclosure of national security requests to be meaningful to our users, it must be within a range that provides sufficient precision to be meaningful. Allowing Twitter, or any other similarly situated company, to only disclose national security requests within an overly broad range seriously undermines the objective of transparency. In addition, we also want the freedom to disclose that we do not receive certain types of requests, if, in fact, we have not received any.
Unfortunately, we are currently prohibited from providing this level of transparency. We think the government’s restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users’ privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs. We believe there are far less restrictive ways to permit discussion in this area while also respecting national security concerns. Therefore, we have pressed the U.S. Department of Justice to allow greater transparency, and proposed future disclosures concerning national security requests that would be more meaningful to Twitter’s users. We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights.