#Transparency update: Twitter shares more national security letters

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

At Twitter, we work every day to advance our longstanding commitment to transparency.  We believe that reporting national security requests in government-mandated bands does not provide meaningful transparency to the public or those using our service, and curtails speech on issues of public importance.  Today, we are able to share information about some of our recent efforts.

As explained in our last blog post on this topic, Twitter is using a process created by the USA FREEDOM ACT to ask the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to lift -- or, alternatively, justify in court -- non-disclosure obligations in connection with National Security Letter (“NSL”) requests.  We have been doing this since the process became available in 2015, and today we are able to share an encouraging (and now unsealed) court order.

The case at issue involved the court’s review of a gag order that the DOJ argued should be kept in place indefinitely.  While the court agreed with the DOJ that national security interests justified the gag order remaining in place, the court also agreed with Twitter that “[t]here are important First Amendment concerns at stake”.  To that end, the court ultimately held that while the gag order may be appropriate now, it should not stay in place indefinitely. The court ordered the DOJ to review the gag order every three years, making clear that any non-disclosure obligation must be narrowly tailored to a finite time period for review.

In addition to sharing this ruling, we can now publish and provide user notice to the affected account-holders for seven more NSLs (10-271500, 10-276879, 10-287342, 10-291339, 10-293548, 10-302279, 10-315095)  where the gag orders have been lifted in response to our petitions, as well as publish and provide user notice to the affected account-holders for two additional NSLs (15-419074, 10-320727) where the DOJ has lifted any non-disclosure requirement.  This brings the total number of NSLs that we have been able to publish since 2010 to 15.  We will update the numbers in our US Report when we publish our next Transparency Report later this year.

Lastly, while we are pleased to share these details with you today, there is no mechanism by which we could ask that gag orders for any requests received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) be reviewed or lifted.  Nor are we able to publish the numbers of such requests, to the extent we had received them, except in bands. Our ongoing litigation in pursuit of greater transparency in this regard, Twitter v. Sessions, is continuing.  We remain steadfast, in Sessions, in asserting that the restrictions on our ability to share information related to FISA requests (to the extent we had received them) with our users and the public are unconstitutional.

We will continue to take practical steps to promote meaningful transparency, and look forward to sharing more updates about these efforts as they become available.  As always, you can learn more about our commitment to protecting free expression in our Help Center.

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