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Twitter rails at transparency report conditions, files suit against US
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MacNN Staff
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Oct 7, 2014, 03:25 PM
Twitter has launched a suit against the US government. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court of Northern California, demands that Twitter's full transparency report about law enforcement requests be published in its entirety, and that restrictions placed on what may be disclosed are illegal under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Conditions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) prevent companies from disclosing exact numbers of requests it receives in anything but the broadest ranges. Twitter not only wants to disclose more specific numbers, but also wishes to be able to say that they received none, if applicable. The company filed its report, and wanted input on what the government considered classified in July -- in September, the government declared that "information contained in the [transparency] report is classified and cannot be publicly released." Twitter disagrees.

Vice President of Twitter Legal Ben Lee wrote that it was the company's 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 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."

Lee goes on to say that "the Defendants' position forces Twitter either to engage in speech that has been preapproved by government officials, or else to refrain from speaking altogether." Additionally, the Twitter-filed complaint says that the restrictions are "an unconstitutional prior restraint" and "government viewpoint discrimination" against Twitter's right to discuss what it has received for legal process claims.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, also serving California, is examining the same issue from a different complainant this week. A ruling may not come in this week's similar case for some time.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said of the suit that "earlier this year, the government addressed similar concerns raised in a lawsuit brought by several major tech companies." Referring to the current system of transparency, Pierce claimed that "the parties worked collaboratively to allow tech companies to provide broad information on government requests while also protecting national security."

( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 16, 2014 at 12:43 AM. )
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Oct 7, 2014, 03:38 PM
I don't play a lawyer on TV, but I strongly suspect Twitter is doing this for the goodwill of its users, while knowing full well that their has no chance of success. Even if the first amendment argument were valid, something on which I can only speculate, the current makeup of the Supreme Court means that in four or five years, if it goes this far, the Court is likely merely to refuse to hear the case.

If Americans want to modify the Patriot Act and how FISA courts operate, they need to send people to Congress who will pass such legislation, and not yo-yos who spend six years doing nothing but passing repeals of the Affordable Care Act that they know will never succeed.
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Oct 7, 2014, 04:04 PM
These problems will forever exist, likely until we have an option on ballots labeled "None of the above" combined with minimum vote thresholds.

In other words, we need to solve the "lesser of two evils" problem.
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