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Supreme Court Dismisses Long-Standing First Amendment Case Involving Twitter

Supreme Court denies Twitter's plea to reveal gov demands, sparking debate on free speech limits and surveillance.

Twitter's Battle: Denied Disclosure and Free Speech Rights Upheld

In a significant blow to X Corp., the former Twitter entity, the Supreme Court's recent dismissal of X Corp. v. Garland has intensified the debate over free speech and government transparency. This denial, included in the morning's list of declined petitions, upholds a March 2023 ruling that the First Amendment does not shield Twitter from limitations on divulging national security requests—a decision criticized by civil liberties advocates for setting a disheartening precedent for censorship.

The legal tussle traces back to Twitter's 2014 lawsuit, following whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations on extensive US telecoms surveillance. While social networks gained the right to report approximate numbers of demands made by agencies like the FBI, strict government nondisclosure requirements restricted disclosures to broad ranges. Twitter aimed to publish exact figures within a six-month period, contending that FBI-demanded redactions infringed upon the First Amendment.

However, courts, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, mostly disagreed. The panel acknowledged Twitter's First Amendment stake in discussing national security subpoenas but cautioned that revealing specifics could compromise surveillance details to foreign adversaries. This decision drew criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, stating it not only contradicted longstanding Supreme Court precedents but also posed risks to speech regarding government interactions.

Previously owned by Elon Musk, Twitter—before its X rebranding—engaged in legal battles worldwide over takedowns and surveillance demands. Notably, in Twitter v. Taamneh, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the social network, negating accusations of aiding terrorists by not banning certain accounts.

As X, it continues to grapple with state-level internet regulations and has sought legal measures to curtail platform criticism. Meanwhile, Congress postpones a showdown over reauthorizing critical segments of the US surveillance system, setting the stage for a heated debate in the near future.