Twitter's lawsuit over surveillance can move forward: US judge

New York: In a boost to Twitter's effort to reveal more about surveillance requests from the US government, a US judge has ruled that the microblogging site can move forward with a lawsuit over the discussion of national security letters.

The US Justice Department had asked US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers to throw out the case, arguing that disclosing elaborate details about surveillance requests would harm national security, ZDNet reported on Thursday.

But the US judge rejected the federal government's attempt to halt the lawsuit, saying that the government had failed to establish clearly why Twitter's constitutional right to speak about surveillance requests should be restricted.

"The Court finds the government has not met its high burden to overcome the strong presumption of unconstitutionality on the record before the Court," Rogers wrote on Thursday.

Twitter filed a suit in 2014 challenging the legal limits on the information companies can share regarding national security letters (NSLs).

Currently, companies may only disclose a range of NSLs they have received (such as within zero to 499 in a six-month period), 

Twitter wants to disclose the specific number they have received, the ZDNet report said.

"The government's restrictions on Twitter's speech are content-based prior restraints subject to the highest level of scrutiny under the First Amendment," the judge wrote. 

"The restrictions are not narrowly tailored to prohibit only speech that would pose a clear and present danger or imminent harm to national security," Rogers wrote.

In her order on Thursday, Rogers directed the government to expedite the appropriate national security clearances for Twitter's lead counsel. 

A hearing in the case is scheduled for next month.