Reddit Warrant Canary Gets Triggered
Samuel Wan / 5 years ago
Since Edward Snowden first brought light to the United States use of National Security Letters, various internet companies have taken to enacting warrant canaries as a way to let users know if they ever do to receive a National Security Letter. One notable organization, reddit previously had a warrant canary in their annual transparency report but this year, it has conspicuously gone missing, more or less confirming they have gotten an NSL.
National Security Letters work through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, where courts can issue a secret order that the recipient is not allowed to reveal to the public. In order to warn their users without violating such an order, warrant canaries are used. The canary is a document or statement that states that the firm hasn’t yet received a secret warrant as of X date. When the notice doesn’t get updated or gets taken down, users will know the firm has been served with a secret warrant with a gag. The theory is that while courts may prevent speech, they can’t compel a firm to either lie or to continue speaking.
reddit has been understandably quiet about the whole issue, with CEO Steve Huffman only saying “I’ve been advised not to say anything one way or the other”. By not given a proper reason for the removal of the canary, it more or less confirms that they did receive an NSL and can’t talk about it. Secret warrants are problematic due to the harm they cause to due process and freedom of speech. Another notable firm that has triggered their warrant canary is Apple.