Judge Dismisses Twitter’s Bid to Reveal US Government Surveillance Requests

April 18, 2020 Updated: April 19, 2020

A federal judge has blocked Twitter from revealing surveillance requests it received from the federal government, accepting the government’s argument that the disclosures would likely lead to harm to national security.

Twitter had sued the Justice Department in 2014 in order to be allowed to publish in its “Draft Transparency Report” the surveillance requests it received. The platform argued that the prohibition violated its First Amendment free speech rights.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the District Court for Northern California on April 17 accepted the government’s argument, writing that granting the social media platform’s request “would be likely to lead to grave or imminent harm to the national security.”

“The Government’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Twitter’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED,” Rogers wrote in her 11-page order (pdf).

The court ruling said the government’s use of confidential declarations sufficiently explained the “gravity of the risks inherent in disclosure of the information that the Government has prohibited Twitter from stating.”

A Twitter spokesperson said that they believe it’s vital that the public sees the demands the company receives in order to help the general public understand the extent of government surveillance.

“Transparency is a key guiding principle in Twitter’s mission to serve the public conversation. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of why we exist, and we strive at all times to help those who use our service and the general public understand how governments, including in the United States, interact with our company,” the spokesperson said in a statement to The Epoch Times.

“We believe it is vital that the public see the demands we receive, and how we work to strike a balance between respecting local law, supporting people’s ability to Tweet, and protecting people from harm.

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s decision, we will continue to fight for transparency. We encourage those who use our service and the public to review our biannual Transparency Report to learn more about our efforts.”

The ruling on April 17 ends a six-year legal battle between the social media giant and the government. The lawsuit spanned the tenures of four U.S. attorneys general—Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Jeff Sessions, and William Barr.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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