Twitter is taking out the big guns in Silicon Valley’s ongoing tussle with Washington over privacy issues.

The microblogging megacorp is joining ranks with other tech giants by taking legal measures to counter and expose the extent of the U.S. government’s demands that the companies hand over information about their users. But as the San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday, Twitter is upping the ante:

Twitter’s lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, alleges that top U.S. Justice Department officials have rejected the company’s request to fully reveal how much the government is seeking through its national security investigations.

Five major companies — Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and LinkedIn — earlier this year reached a settlement that allowed them to disclose some level of information in twice-a-year “transparency reports,” but Twitter argues that the limits violate free speech rights and are unconstitutional.

Twitter is going further than the rest of the tech industry, seeking broader rights to expose how much government surveillance, if any, is going on in the Twitterverse.

“These restrictions constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint and content-based restriction on, and government viewpoint discrimination against, Twitter’s right to speak about information of national and global public concern,” Twitter argues in its lawsuit.

Twitter filed the lawsuit after the unsatisfactory conclusion of negotiations with federal agencies to allow the site to publicly disclose more than the other five companies were able to reveal about the government’s user data requests, the paper added.

Twitter’s stake in the issue is financial as well as political, as the platform could face a mass exodus of users spooked by the idea that the Feds were monitoring their tweets while rifling through their personal information.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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