Court Battles

Judge rules Nunes can’t sue Twitter over satirical accounts

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) cannot include Twitter in his lawsuit against two parody accounts and a Republican strategist he accuses of defaming him on the platform, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Twitter cannot be held legally liable for statements by the accounts and strategist Liz Mair, Judge John Marshall ruled, citing federal law.

The California Republican, Marshall wrote, “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,” adding “the court refuses to do so,” according to the Fresno Bee.

In the 2019 lawsuit, Nunes claimed that Mair and the anonymous accounts, which post in character as Nunes’s cow and his mother, respectively, did injury to his reputation and caused him to win his 2018 re-election with only 53 percent of the vote after winning with 68 percent in 2016. He also accused the social media platform of negligence for allowing the statements to be made, the newspaper reported.

Lawyers for Twitter cited Section 230, the federal law that states social media platforms are not responsible for content posted by third parties unless they helped develop or create it. Nunes’s attorney Steven Biss claimed the company favored liberal over conservative content and that it had promoted content mocking Nunes, and that as a result the Section 230 protections did not apply.

Marshall disagreed, saying existing legal precedent holds that Section 230 still applies to platforms that are biased in what content they allow. Nunes’s lawsuits against the two parody accounts and Mair remains pending, but the ruling will likely complicate his efforts to compel Twitter to reveal the people behind the anonymous accounts.

“We’re trying to figure out who they are, and we read the comments on Twitter, as painful as it is, we do that every day,” Biss told the Fresno Bee earlier this month. “But we’re at a dead end.”

Nunes is also suing four news organizations, including McClatchy, which owns the Fresno Bee.

Tags Devin Nunes devin nunes cow Liz Mair McClatchy Steven Biss Twitter

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