Judge rules that GOP Rep. Devin Nunes cannot sue Twitter over tweets made by parody accounts pretending to be his mother and his cow

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Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, pauses at the end of testimony by witnesses Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • A Virginia judge dismissed a $US250 million defamation lawsuit from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California against Twitter on Wednesday.
  • Nunes filed the lawsuit against Twitter in March 2019, accusing the social media site of “explicit censorship of viewpoints with which it disagrees” and “shadow-banning conservatives.”
  • It also accused Twitter of allowing two anonymous parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mum, and a real account for Republican strategist Liz Mair to tweet disparaging remarks against him without penalty.
  • Judicial circuit Judge John Marshall said that Twitter was immune from Nunes’ defamation claims, citing a federal law that protects internet publishers from being held liable for content published by third parties.
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A Virginia judge dismissed a lawsuit from Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California against Twitter on Wednesday, ruling that the social media network cannot be held liable for unflattering tweets made by its users.

In March 2019, Nunes filed a lawsuit against Twitter and other parties seeking $US250 million in damages. In the lawsuit, Nunes alleged that Twitter was an “information content provider,” and said that the social media site was responsible for the creation of content disseminated through its service. It also accused Twitter of “explicit censorship of viewpoints with which it disagrees” and for “shadow-banning conservatives.”

The suit also called out three “defamers” – two anonymous parody accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mum, and a real account for Republican strategist Liz Mair – for ruining his reputation and for contributing to him winning a 2018 election by a “much narrower margin” than in previous years. It accused Twitter of “negligence” for allowing the accounts to continue tweeting without penalty.

“In 2018, during his last re-election for the 22nd Congressional District, Nunes endured an orchestrated defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope, one that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life,” Nunes’ attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

According to the Fresno Bee, Judicial circuit Judge John Marshall said in a letter to Nunes’ attorneys on Friday that Twitter was immune from Nunes’ defamation claims, citing a federal law titled Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The act, passed in 1996, protects internet publishers from being held liable for content published by third parties.

Twitter praised the decision and said it enforces its terms of service “impartially for everyone.”

“Twitter strongly believes the court made the right decision today to dismiss the claims raised by Congressman Nunes. Twitter enforces the Twitter Rules impartially for everyone who uses our service around the world, regardless of their background or political affiliation,” Twitter spokesperson Catherine Hill said in a statement.

According to the Fresno Bee, Marshall’s ruling removes Twitter as a defendant in the case, though the case remains pending against the accounts for Devin Nunes’ Cow, Devin Nunes’ Mum, and Liz Mair.

Mair in a tweet on Wednesday said that Nunes was still suing her for $US400 million.

Twitter has refused to comply with Nunes’ requests to reveal the identities of the users behind the two parody accounts, which as of Wednesday, were still active.