San Francisco, CA – The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case involving X Corp., formerly known as Twitter, and its battle against disclosing user data demanded by the United States government. The case, titled X Corp. v. Garland, was denied by the Supreme Court, leaving intact a ruling from March 2023 that determined the First Amendment does not protect Twitter from limitations on reporting national security demands. This decision has been criticized by civil liberties organizations, who argue that it sets a disturbingly low threshold for censorship.
Twitter originally filed the lawsuit in 2014, following Edward Snowden’s revelations about extensive secret surveillance by US telecoms. In the wake of these disclosures, social networks gained the ability to report the number of demands made by agencies like the FBI, but were only allowed to provide broad ranges due to government nondisclosure requirements. Twitter sought to publish the exact number of requests it received within a specific time frame, contending that the FBI’s redactions violated the First Amendment.
However, the courts have disagreed, including a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in March. While acknowledging Twitter’s First Amendment interest in commenting on national security subpoenas, the panel concluded that revealing the exact number of requests could compromise surveillance efforts and inform foreign adversaries about what is being monitored. The decision has been met with disappointment and concern from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue that it contradicts established Supreme Court precedents and could pave the way for broader restrictions on speech regarding government interactions.
X Corp., now owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has been involved in various legal battles surrounding government demands for content takedowns and surveillance. The Supreme Court has previously ruled in a separate case involving Twitter, where it determined that the social network was not responsible for aiding terrorists by failing to ban their accounts. Meanwhile, X Corp. is currently embroiled in a fight against state-level internet regulation and has even filed a lawsuit to suppress criticism of the platform. Additionally, Congress recently postponed a debate on reauthorizing parts of the US surveillance apparatus, which is expected to ignite further discussions in the future.
In summary, the Supreme Court has declined to hear X Corp.’s legal challenge regarding the disclosure of user data demanded by the US government. This decision upholds a previous ruling that limits Twitter’s ability to report national security demands and has raised concerns among civil liberties organizations. The outcome of this case may have implications for free speech and the balance between privacy and national security in the digital age.