Twitter Inc.’s lawsuit to allow it to make public the “limited” scope of U.S. government surveillance of its users may be irrelevant under a new law passed by Congress, a judge said.
Twitter sued in October seeking to publish more precise numbers of so-called national security letters it received from the FBI than the government would allow. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, on Thursday ordered lawyers for the government and Twitter to explain how the passage of the USA Freedom Act affects the case.
“Contrary to Twitter’s position, it does appear to the court that the USA Freedom Act has provisions pertinent to those at issue in the motion to dismiss and at the heart of Twitter’s complaint,” Gonzalez Rogers wrote in an order.
“Indeed, the court is concerned that the new legislation moots the claims for relief in Twitter’s complaint.”
Twitter last year broke ranks with other large Internet companies, including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., that agreed with the government to disclose the foreign intelligence and national security requests they receive on their users only in aggregate numbers of 1,000. The San Francisco-based company said this was a constraint on their right to free speech.
The government argues that the law signed by President Barack Obama on June 2 establishes a mechanism for public disclosure by recipients of national security requests and that this information doesn’t need to be disclosed in aggregate bands of 1,000.
The USA Freedom Act was passed after the Patriot Act expired amid controversy over its provision for the National Security Agency’s bulk data-collection program.
The case is Twitter v. Holder, 14-cv-04480, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).