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Amicus brief asks appeals court to reconsider ruling that allowed FBI to gag Twitter

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed an amicus brief to support Twitter’s bid to get an appeals court to change its ruling on an order preventing it from publishing its 2013 transparency report.

In 2013, Twitter attempted to publish a transparency report about the use of national security letters and FISA orders by the government, including if it had received such requests.

However, without a court order, the FBI prevented Twitter from publishing the report.

Twitter sued, and in March, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the FBI.

The ruling undermined the law on “prior restraints,” which refers to government officials restricting speech in advance.

We obtained a copy of the brief for you here.

In the brief, the EFF and ACLU note that the ruling “carves out, for the first time, a whole category of prior restraints that receive no more scrutiny than subsequent punishments for speech—expanding officials’ power to gag virtually anyone who interacts with a government agency and wishes to speak publicly about that interaction.”

The exception applies to “government restrictions on the disclosure of information transmitted confidentially as part of a legitimate government process.”

The court’s exception to information people learn from “legitimate, confidential government processes” could be abused considering people learn from legitimate government processes all the time.

EFF and ACLU hope that the brief will convince the Ninth Circuit to rehear Twitter’s case.

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