Abbi Webb, Assistant Editor
Twitter users exercise free speech daily on the public social media site, but the company is arguing that the government's restrictions on what information it can disclose about National Security requests is in direction violation of First Amendments rights -- their own.
On Oct. 7 Twitter sued the U.S. Government because the Justice Department put limits on how much Twitter can reveal to users about the frequency and subject matter of information requested from the National Security Agency (NSA).
According to Mercury News, five other tech companies have been involved in the fight against the government regarding national security programs: Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and LinkedIn. These five companies all reached settlements with the government earlier this year allowing them twice-a-year "transparency reports" stating only a range (0-999) of requests they receive, the article added.
Twitter was not satisfied with the negotiation so it filed a lawsuit.
Twitter's argument, according to Mercury News, is that the government's restrictions are unconstitutional and discriminatory in prohibiting speech of high public concern. The company is pushing for more detailed, broader rights when it comes to giving users the number and type of requests they receive or do not receive.
So why should you care?
It's not because your First Amendment rights are in jeopardy. It's because if Twitter wins this case, your security may be in jeopardy.
In a blog post on Twitter's official website, the company explained its reasoning for filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Government and said it was part of a wider effort to reform government surveillance. The company voiced its support of a congressional bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), called the USA Freedom Act of 2014. The blog simply states that this bill will help better protect free speech as well as more transparency between tech companies and their users, but it could cut back on some much-needed security investigations.
The bill is described on Senator Leahy's official website as restoring American citizens' privacy by ending the governments systematic searches through phone records and technology databases. The banning of such activity could potentially put American lives at risk.
Twitter's lawsuit states it has a First Amendment right to reveal what information the government is asking for even if the government is requesting information about an individual or group possibly connected with terrorism or criminal activity that must be kept confidential.
The issue? First Amendment rights should always be vigorously protected, but so should our national security. There has to be a line drawn for where the government can pry into private citizen's lives, but when it is dealing with high risk national security threats, the right to conceal confidential information should be respected.