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Federal Judge Rules Against Twitter in DOJ Surveillance Lawsuit

On April 17, 2020, Federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Twitter will not be able to reveal the amount of surveillance requests it recieved from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The lawsuit specifically focused Twitter’s Draft Transparency Report on the amount of security processes that Twitter received from the DOJ between July 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013.

Rogers, based upon the evidence and reasoning presented, concluded that the government's refusal to release the report was reasonable given the government's interest in national security. This concern adequately outweighed Twitter’s First Amendment claim. The judge further noted that granting Twitter’s request directly harmed public safety and national security.

In her decision, which can be found here, the Judge sought to explain her reasoning, "The declarations explain the gravity of the risks inherent in disclosure of the information that the Government has prohibited Twitter from stating in its Draft Transparency Report, including a sufficiently specific explanation of the reasons disclosure of mere aggregate numbers, even years after the relevant time period in the Draft Transparency Report, could be expected to give rise to grave or imminent harm to the national security. The Court finds that the declarations contain sufficient factual detail to justify the Government’s classification of the aggregate information in Twitter’s 2014 Draft Transparency Report on the grounds that the information would be likely to lead to grave or imminent harm to the national security, and that no more narrow tailoring of the restrictions can be made."

Twitter had brought the lawsuit on October 7, 2014, arguing the DOJ violated the company’s First Amendment rights by denying the report’s release.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.


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