In a blog post accompanying Twitter's biannual transparency report, the company alleged today that its First Amendment rights are being violated by U.S. government restrictions on transparency. The post, entitled "Fighting for #transparency," hints at a brewing battle with the U.S. government over what companies can publicly reveal about government requests for user data.
The latest transparency report contains more information about government data requests than ever before, but Twitter says it would reveal much more if it were permitted. Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's Manager of Global Legal Policy, said these policies amount to a limitation on speech. "We think the government's restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users' privacy," wrote Kessel, "but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs."
Kessler alluded to getting the courts involved, saying, "We are also considering legal options we may have to seek to defend our First Amendment rights." Twitter is not alone in pressuring the U.S. government to allow for more transparency, as Yahoo recently filed a lawsuit against the NSA over user data requests. Both companies say the U.S. government's transparency policy hurts their businesses by breeding mistrust in their users.
Twitter's latest transparency report follows a recent deal between the U.S. Department of Justice and major web companies allowing them to publicly release information about the aggregate number of national security related requests for user data they receive. Kessel asserts the requirements force companies to release information in terms that are too broad to be meaningful to users.