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Twitter Sues US Government Over Alleged Spying

Website In Fight For #Transparency

Twitter has sued the US government in the so-called “fight for #transparency.” As detailed in an official blog post (which is slightly longer than 140 characters), the site had previously been prohibited from telling its users exactly what the government had been up to on their site, and precisely how much snooping they'd done through the social network. The decision to sue the Justice Department and the FBI - said to be the main culprits - was an attempt to provoke further public outrage and encourage other tech-sites such as Facebook and Google to follow suit.
At least in the Western world, America's government is the one most associated with online spying. But they're not alone. In the UK, officials have attempted to justify their own e-espionage by admitting to using a legal loophole that allows its security services to check what we write online without technically breaking any laws. Apparently, our words on social media fall under the category of “external communications” – and this makes it fair game to check up on them without our consent.

In the US, the biggest danger to civilian privacy is an organisation known as the NSA (National Security Agency). Their long list of privacy controversies range from warrantless searches to tracking people’s internet data without permission. Back in April, Twitter filed a Transparency Report to US government officials with the intent of it finding publication. The report was rejected.

According to Twitter’s blog, its specific reason for suing the US government is as follows:

Our ability to speak has been restricted by laws that prohibit and even criminalize a service provider like us from disclosing the exact number of national security letters (“NSLs”) and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Acts ("FISA”) court orders received – even if that number is zero.”

Twitter claims this suppression is unconstitutional, as the right to free speech should allow them to explain to their users exactly what the US government does with their service. Twitter claims it is forced to share information in “broad, inexact ranges.” They sued on the basis that this was against their First Amendment rights.

Although any money gained will mean little to Twitter – which enjoyed the most profitable year of its existence in 2013 – they will see the lawsuit as a call to arms. While the site receives far fewer government requests than larger technology sites such as Google, those supporting the lawsuit have stated that they “hope other technology companies will now follow Twitter’s lead.” Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, went on to say that “Technology companies have an obligation to protect their customers sensitive information against overboard government surveillance...”
Now that Twitter have opened the floodgates, it will be interesting to see whether Microsoft, Dropbox, Google and Facebook – who have all been embroiled in their own controversies in the past – will follow suit.


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Twitter Sues US Government Over Alleged Spying Reviewed by Emile Cole on Monday, October 13, 2014 Rating: 5
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