This story just floors me. Verison is claiming the first amendment to defend itself against allegations of wire tapping.
Essentially, the argument is that turning over truthful information to the government is free speech, and the EFF and ACLU can’t do anything about it. In fact, Verizon basically argues that the entire lawsuit is a giant SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit, and that the case is an attempt to deter the company from exercising its First Amendment right to turn over customer calling information to government security services.
Just imagine the precedent this sets. It means there is no longer private information because anyone can volunteer any factual information and call it the right to petition. On the other hand, the argument is really brilliant. It expands the concept of free speech, which is usually gets evokes so people can air opinions or make controversial art, to free information. Their disclosure doesn’t even take the form of speech, its just a phone record, gathered data. I can just imagine that little guy in the gray ‘speedsuit’ standing at the White House gates and just reading down a dot matrix printout.
The people shall be heard!
5/4/07 Jon Smith to Teikrit, Iraq – 45:23. off-peak.
5/4/07 Jon Smith to Washington D.C. – 23:07. off-peak.
I don’t know if they will win, but the idea is both impressive, off-putting, and could have some very interesting ramifications. I mean, if Verizon can share my phone records and call it free speech, can I put mp3s on my blog and call it the same thing?