9th Circuit Says Twitter Can’t Disclose FBI’s ‘National Security’ Requirements for User Information
Twitter may not publicly quantify the number of times the FBI has requested user information from it for national security investigations, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the FBI was justified in preventing the social media giant from publishing the total number of such requests in its two online “Transparency Report.” once a year because doing so can be dangerous. National security.
Circuit Judge Daniel Bress, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote that although the court acknowledged “Twitter’s desire to speak on matters of public concern”, “the limitation of government for Twitter’s speech is narrowly tailored to support the government’s compelling interest: our National Security.”
The decision affirms a similar ruling by a lower district court judge in 2020. Bress was joined in his decision by two other conservative judges: Carlos Bea, who was appointed by President George W. Bush appointee and Lawrence VanDyke, a Trump appointee, who also wrote a concurring opinion.
Attorney for Twitter and for The federal government did not respond to a request for comment.
Some observers have criticized the decision as a blow to the First Amendment rights of people and organizations like Twitter that find themselves caught up in national security affairs or want to publish information about them.
Andrew Crocker, senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “This ruling really undermines First Amendment protections for anyone caught up in the super-secret investigation of the government”.
Twitter first filed a lawsuit challenging the FBI’s directive not to release figures under the Obama administration in October 2014.
Legal controversy over disclosure of how often the government requests information from social media company and what kind of news agency would have appeared earlier that year. That’s when big companies like Google and Facebook said they wanted to reveal more about government surveillance on their platforms following Edward Snowden’s revelations about the vast scope of its surveillance efforts. USA.
In response, the US government agreed to allow companies to disclose information about the number of requests for information they have received, but with a limit. The government says companies can only report claims in the “range” of 1,000. That is, companies can report not receiving and 999 such orders, but cannot provide further details or specify the exact number of requests they have received. They also cannot disclose that they have not received any such request within any given period of time.
In April 2014, Twitter provided the FBI with a draft of their latest Transparency Report, which identifies the number of requests for User information it received from the FBI in much smaller amounts.
The report will quantify “national security letters”, through which governments can request registrant information and payment records in national security cases. It will also quantify orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which allows for real-time court-ordered surveillance or the release of stored content and other records of a company like Twitter.
Twitter officials wanted to show how many of each type of government request they received in increments of not 1,000 but 25—meaning they received between 1 and 25 such requests, or 25. to 50. They also want to be able to say whether the company has received such requests.
The FBI pushed back, ordering Twitter not to release the report because it included secret information that would harm national security if released.
Twitter responded by filing a lawsuit, arguing that the restrictions were “a prior unconstitutional and content-based restriction on and discriminatory government view of the rights of Twitter gets to speak for information about national and global public concerns.”
The government disagreed, although the details of its argument were obscured because they were sealed. Why: government officials say they include classified information.
In her decision on Monday, Bress said the court had reviewed those records and determined that the government had met the burden of proving the restrictions were necessary. It was not clear on Monday whether the panel’s decision would be appealed.
Crocker, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling and hoped it would be challenged.
Government action to prevent prior publication of material—known as “prior restraint”—is subject to the strictest standards of legal review, based on First Amendment sanctity, and it has been denied in extreme cases in the past, Crocker said.
Perhaps most famously, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 rejected the government’s argument for preventing newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers, a classified study of the decision-making process of the United States. United States in Vietnam.
Crocker said the 9th District council deviated from the standards around the previous restriction that had protected free speech for years and set a “very, very bad precedent for the First Amendment in national security cases.”
In a 2022 report, Twitter said the US accounted for 20% of the total government requests for information globally for the period under review, the highest of any country.
2023 Los Angeles Times.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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