Twitter has sued the U.S. Department of Justice as it seeks the right to reveal the extent of US government surveillance.
The lawsuit marks an escalation in the Internet industry's battle over government gag orders on the nature and number of requests for private user information. Filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, the complain alleges that current rules prevent Twitter from even stating that it has not received any national security requests for user information.
The messaging service said such restrictions violate the Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Writing in its company blog, Twitter said that this was an important issue for anyone who believes in a strong First Amendment, and that it hopes to be able to share its complete transparency report.
Twitter's lawsuit follows an agreement between Internet companies like Google and Microsoft with the government about court orders they receive related to surveillance. Companies are allowed to disclose the number of orders they received, but only in broad ranges. A company that offers email services, for example, would be able to say it received between zero and 999 orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during a six-month period for email content belonging to someone outside the United States.