Twitter is suing the FBI and the Department of Justice to be able to release more information about government surveillance of its users.
Twitter Inc. filed a lawsuit Tuesday in a California federal court to publish its full “transparency report,” which documents government requests for user information. The published report does not include the exact number of national security requests because Twitter, along with other Internet companies, has been prohibited from disclosing that information, even if no requests were received.
The San Francisco-based social media company said in a blog post that it believes it’s 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.”
Spokespeople for the FBI and DOJ weren’t immediately available for comment.
The U.S. government has been able to access phone networks and high-speed Internet traffic for years to catch suspected criminals and terrorists. The FBI also has started pushing technology companies like Google, Skype and others to guarantee access to their data streams and grab emails, video chats, pictures and more.
The technology companies say they turn over information only if required by court order, and in the interest of transparency with their customers, want to share information about the government’s activities.
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.