In context: In 2014, Twitter sued the US Department of Justice for forcing them to conceal everything the government asks them about. On Friday, District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed their lawsuit on the ground that all information relates directly to national security.
Seven years ago, NSA contractor and CIA employee Edward Snowden exposed the US government’s extensive surveillance programs, which involve information taken from social media sites. Requests for information are known to involve things like private conversations and location data but could reasonably extend to full-blown psychological profiles built on social media data.
Twitter hasn’t outright objected to these practices – which is understandable, given they can be important to preventing serious crime – but they have fought for transparency since Snowden. Their first goal was to reveal the number of information requests the government makes or a general categorization of the volume, under a “Draft Transparency Report.”
Even this simple request has been dismissed, on the grounds that such action “would be likely to lead to grave or imminent harm to the national security,” according to the judge. Her decision was reportedly based on confidential declarations from senior officials. It was ultimately unsurprising, as Twitter’s legal argument was premised on their right to free speech, which, justifiably or otherwise, is often disregarded when ‘national security’ is leveled at it.
Twitter says they “will continue to fight for transparency,” but haven’t specified what that means. The dismissal was ruled in the District Court for Northern California, so perhaps they can appeal the decision, or approach from a new angle in a national court. Meanwhile, stick to encrypted messaging services like Telegram or secured networks like Tor for illegal business (that’s a joke).
Image credit: Claudio Schwarz