(Adds comments from Justice Department, Twitter CEO)
By David Ingram
SAN FRANCISCO, July 6 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ruled on Thursday that Twitter Inc could move forward with a lawsuit that aims to free technology companies to speak more openly about surveillance requests they receive from the U.S. government.
The U.S. government had failed to show the kind of “clear and present danger” that could possibly justify restraints Twitter’s constitutional right to talk about surveillance requests, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, said in a written order.
“The government’s restrictions on Twitter’s speech are content-based prior restraints subject to the highest level of scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Rogers wrote.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees certain rights including freedom of speech.
The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said.
Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey retweeted a company statement: “Twitter is continuing its fight for more transparency under the First Amendment.”
Twitter filed the lawsuit in 2014 after revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the extent of U.S. spying.
The lawsuit is aimed at ending legal limits on details that tech companies can provide about U.S. national security requests. Currently, companies can reveal the number of requests they have received, but only within a range, such as 0-499 in a six-month period.
Facebook Inc, for example, has disclosed that during the last six months of 2016 it received between zero and 499 national security letters, a type of U.S. government order for communications data that does not require a warrant.
Rogers scheduled a hearing in Twitter’s case for next month. (Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio)