Twitter Government Request Disclosure Suit Continues

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By Alexis Kramer

May 2 — The U.S. government May 2 lost a bid to toss a lawsuit alleging that it unlawfully banned Twitter Inc. from publicly disclosing details about national security requests for user data.

Allegations that the government told Twitter it couldn't publish a draft transparency report were sufficient to satisfy Article III's injury-in-fact requirement for standing, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled.

Twitter, however, will have to amend its claims that it had a right under the First Amendment to disclose the report information.

Twitter sought to publish a transparency report containing the precise number of national security letters it received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to Twitter, the FBI notified Twitter that the information in the report was classified, couldn't be publicly released and that publication could result in a violation of the Espionage Act. Twitter challenged the government's application of the Espionage Act on First Amendment grounds.

The court rejected Twitter's First Amendment claims. The First Amendment doesn't allow disclosure of classified national security information and Twitter hasn't alleged that the information isn't properly classified, the court said.

“In the absence of a challenge to the decisions classifying that information, Twitter's Constitutional challenges simply do not allege viable claims,” it said.

Twitter has 21 days to re-file complaint with revised arguments regarding the classification of information.

Perkins Coie LLP represented Twitter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at jwright@bna.com