Devin Nunes Can’t Sue Twitter Over Statements by Fake Cow, Judge Rules
WASHINGTON — A judge has ruled that Rep. Devin Nunes has no right to sue Twitter over statements made by a fake Internet cow, someone parodying his mother and a Republican strategist.
Judge John Marshall said in a decision Friday that Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims of” Nunes, R-Calif., due to federal law that says social media companies are not liable for what people post on their platforms.
Nunes “seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its internet platform,” Marshall wrote. “The court refuses to do so.”
Nunes sued Twitter, the two parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom and strategist Liz Mair in March 2019. He alleged the latter three had defamed him online, ruining his reputation and causing him to win his 2018 election by a narrower margin than normal. He accused Twitter of being negligent for allowing the alleged defamation.
Twitter’s lawyers, in their motion to dismiss the suit, argued that Twitter was immune from the lawsuit due to federal law. The law, known as Section 230, says that social media companies such as Twitter are not liable for what third parties post on their platform. The only exception is if Twitter personally helped develop or create the content. Both Twitter and Nunes agreed the company did not do that in this case.
Nunes’ lawyer, Steven Biss, argued that Twitter’s actions in allegedly favoring more liberal content over conservative content and allegedly promoting tweets that made fun of Nunes meant that Section 230 protections should not apply.
Judge Marshall disagreed with Nunes and Biss’ arguments, saying previous court cases had already settled that Section 230 applies even if the company does show bias in what content it allows people to post.
Marshall’s ruling does not mean this case has been dismissed. Rather, Marshall is removing Twitter as a defendant on the case, leaving the case pending against the two parody Twitter accounts and Mair. But it’s a blow to Nunes nonetheless, as he was trying to push Twitter into revealing the identities of the two accounts, who have been mocking him online anonymously.
Twitter’s lawyer, Patrick Carome, made it clear in a hearing earlier this month that they have no intention of sharing identifying information the company has on the accounts. Twitter has declined to comply with Nunes’ requests for information so far.
Twitter praised Marshall’s decision in a statement to McClatchy, with a spokesperson saying it “strongly believes the court made the right decision today.”
“Twitter enforces the Twitter Rules impartially for everyone who uses our service around the world, regardless of their background or political affiliation,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We are constantly improving our efforts to serve the public conversation and will continue to be transparent with the public.”
Mair, the only one remaining in the lawsuit who has been identified, told McClatchy in a statement Wednesday that Nunes’ lawsuits against her remain “an assault on the First Amendment and the core American principle of free speech.”
“Representative Nunes took an oath to support and defend the Constitution — all of it and not just the bits he likes — and I hope he will take the opportunity to reflect on that fact again today and proceed accordingly,” she said.
The author behind Devin Nunes’ Cow declined to comment. The author behind Devin Nunes’ Mom and Nunes’ lawyer, Biss, did not return requests for comment.
Nunes’ lawsuit against Twitter and others is one of six active lawsuits Nunes has filed. In each one, he alleges people have defamed him, conspired to harm his reputation or both.
He is suing four news organizations: CNN; The Washington Post; Hearst, the owner of Esquire Magazine; and McClatchy, the owner of the largest newspaper in Nunes’ district, The Fresno Bee.
He is also suing Fusion GPS, the political opposition research firm responsible for the so-called Steele dossier on President Donald Trump.
©2020 McClatchy Washington Bureau
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
SAN ANTONIO — Twitter content curated by its personalization algorithms amplifies the mainstream political right more than the left, according... Read More
SAN ANTONIO — Twitter content curated by its personalization algorithms amplifies the mainstream political right more than the left, according to a joint study conducted by the platform’s transparency and accountability team. Researchers undertook a large-scale experiment that analyzed millions of Twitter users, political parties in... Read More
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter said Sunday it had banned the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for multiple violations... Read More
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter said Sunday it had banned the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for multiple violations of the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy, the latest strike against the firebrand whose embrace of conspiracy theories has been called “a cancer” for the GOP and led the House to boot... Read More
WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will resign from Congress at the end of the month to become chief executive... Read More
WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., will resign from Congress at the end of the month to become chief executive officer of former President Donald Trump’s fledgling social media entity, the company announced Monday. "Congressman Devin Nunes is a fighter and a leader,” said Trump, who... Read More
SAN FRANCISCO — Jack Dorsey is stepping aside as the head and CEO of Twitter, believing the social media giant... Read More
SAN FRANCISCO — Jack Dorsey is stepping aside as the head and CEO of Twitter, believing the social media giant “Is ready to move on from its founders.” Dorsey has faced pressure for months over his decision to serve as CEO for both Twitter and Square,... Read More
WASHINGTON — A new, groundbreaking study suggests not only is there strong bipartisan support for corporate efforts to address environmental,... Read More
WASHINGTON — A new, groundbreaking study suggests not only is there strong bipartisan support for corporate efforts to address environmental, social and governance challenges, but that the bipartisan appeal of these initiatives dramatically increases among Americans under the age of 45. The study, “Unlocking the Bipartisan... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department intervened this week in a lawsuit former President Donald Trump filed against social media companies... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department intervened this week in a lawsuit former President Donald Trump filed against social media companies Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube. Trump accuses the companies of violating his First Amendment right to free speech by banning his postings after the Jan. 6... Read More