- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Twitter won’t give up its court fight to allow the company to release information about FBI and Justice Department requests for data on its users, though a federal judge previously agreed with the government’s claim it would be a national security risk.

“We’re keeping our promise to continue this fight,” Sean Edgett, Twitter general counsel, tweeted Tuesday announcing a filing with the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The social media giant wants to publish details of the government’s requests for information, including potentially exposing government surveillance efforts in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act orders and National Security Letters, which are similar to subpoenas and typically used by the FBI in national security investigations.

A federal judge ruled against Twitter this year, siding with the government’s argument that the disclosures would cause “grave or imminent harm” to U.S. national security.

The government cited former FBI executive assistant director Jay Tabb’s assessment that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, would be able to use the information Twitter wanted to reveal.

“Underscoring the importance of the platform for ISIS, when Twitter removed such videos from its platforms, ISIS threatened to retaliate by murdering Twitter employees,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in court filings last year. “That reality — that terrorist organizations used Twitter to further their illicit aims and efforts to harm the United States — shaped EAD Tabb’s assessment of the harm that reasonably could be expected to arise from disclosure of the information.”

The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

Twitter says the government is violating its First Amendment rights by not allowing it to make public details about its interaction with the law enforcement agencies.

The battle predates President Trump’s tenure, though the public clashes between the president and Twitter have attracted fresh attention to the case.

The government has prohibited publication of the Twitter information since 2014 because of what it says is classified information, according to court documents.

Twitter has argued that by classifying the information it wishes to include in its Transparency Report, the government has enacted a prior restraint on Twitter’s speech and violated the First Amendment.

Twitter’s outside counsel on the case, lawyers from the law firm Mayer Brown, declined to answer whether they intended to ask the Supreme Court to review their case if the federal appeals court does not rule in their favor.

The appeal keeps the case alive and, to some extent, escalates the Trump-Twitter feud.

After Twitter fact-checked Mr. Trump’s tweets, the president signed an executive order that he said would restore fairness online. The order removed protections afforded to social media companies for the legal liability of content on their websites.

Twitter said the move was strictly political and would “threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”

The company has insisted that the actions against Mr. Trump’s tweets were intended to provide context for speech it deemed inappropriate.

Mr. Trump and his supporters accuse Twitter of censoring his speech.

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