The news has just broken that Devin Nunes has brought a big time, big money defamation lawsuit against Twitter.
He’s alleging that Twitter tried to influence the 2018 elections, including his own, by shadow-banning conservatives and censoring opposing viewpoints. He also says they ignored legal complaints about abusive behavior.
FOX NEWS – California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes filed a major lawsuit seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages against Twitter and a handful of its users on Monday, accusing the social media site of “shadow-banning conservatives” including himself to influence the 2018 elections, systematically censoring opposing viewpoints and totally “ignoring” lawful complaints of repeated abusive behavior.
In a complaint filed in Virginia state court on Monday, obtained by Fox News, Nunes said Twitter was guilty of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory – providing both a voice and financial incentive to the defamers – thereby facilitating defamation on its platform.”
The lawsuit alleges defamation, conspiracy, and negligence, and seeks not only damages, but also an injunction compelling Twitter to turn over the identities behind numerous accounts he says have harassed and defamed him.
Although federal law ordinarily exempts services like Twitter from defamation liability, Nunes’ suit said the platform has taken such an active role in curating and banning content — as opposed to merely hosting it — that it should face liability like any other organization that defames.
“Twitter created and developed the content at issue in this case by transforming false accusations of criminal conduct, imputed wrongdoing, dishonesty and lack of integrity into a publicly available commodity used by unscrupulous political operatives and their donor/clients as a weapon,” Nunes’ legal team wrote. “Twitter is ‘responsible’ for the development of offensive content on its platform because it in some way specifically encourages development of what is offensive about the content.”
$250 million! That is some mega cash.
Just like Facebook, Twitter allows people to advertise. I assume when he says ‘monetizing’ abusive and defamatory content, that’s what he means.
Additionally, the complaint states, Twitter has a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid hosting outwardly defamatory content, because of its increasingly important role in current affairs.
“Access to Twitter is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American Democracy,” the complaint states. “A candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship. A presence on Twitter is essential for an individual to run for office or engage in any level of political organizing in modern America. That is because Twitter is not merely a website: it is the modern town square. Twitter is equivalent to the private owner of a public forum who has fully opened its property to the general public for purposes of permitting the public’s free expression and debate. That is, in fact, what Twitter has always claimed to be.”
In large part because of Twitter’s actions, 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” in the past year, according to the complaint.
The complaint also named specific Twitter accounts that spread allegedly defamatory material about Nunes. One defendant, identified as “Liz” Mair, purportedly published tweets that “implied that Nunes colluded with prostitutes and cocaine addicts, that Nunes does cocaine, and that Nunes was involved in a ‘Russian money laundering front,'” according to Nunes’ lawyers.
The complaint quoted a June 22, 2018 tweet from Mair that implied Nunes invested in a winery that “allegedly used underage hookers to solicit investment.”
Mair did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Fox News has also reached out to Twitter for comment on the lawsuit, but did not receive an immediate reply. (The lawsuit seeks joint and several liability, which permits plaintiffs to recover from one defendant, and then leaves the defendants to sort out what each defendant owes.)
Here’s the Liz Mair tweet that Fox News posted:
To be fair, I think the @fresnobee writing up your investment in a winery that allegedly used underage hookers to solicit investment– an allegation you’ve known about for years, during which you’ve stayed invested in it, I might add– did surprise you. https://t.co/acMlAXjPP8
— BrandValue$4B (@LizMair) June 23, 2018
I honestly have no idea if this case has a chance or not. Nunes is a sitting Congressman and was the head of the House Intelligence Committee for the last two years, so he’s a very serious person. I would assume, thusly, that Twitter is taking this lawsuit very seriously.
But if he wins, that would be a huge deal on the social media landscape. It could also be the end of Twitter if he gets the kind of dinero he’s asking for. Actually scratch that. Twitter makes over $3 billion a year according to Google. But that would still probably hurt if he got the amount he wants.