The United States Representative, Devin Nunes, sued Twitter and some users for defamation and negligence, accusing Twitter of acting as an "opposition research vessel" for hosting accounts that insulted Nunes. The lawsuit is the latest of several filed against social media platforms for alleged bias against conservative politicians, none of whom has made substantial progress in the courts.
Nunes' lawsuit focuses mainly on a group of Twitter accounts that Nunes claims coordinated defamatory attacks. in it, mainly " Devin Nunes & # 39; Cow ", the now suspended "Devin Nunes & # 39; Mom", and the story of the Republican political consultant Liz Mair. The complaint, published by Fox News this afternoon, cites numerous tweets from those accounts that, he claims, "maliciously attacked all aspects of Nunes' character, honesty, integrity, ethics and aptitude to fulfill his duties. as a Congressman of the United States. "The attacks included accusing Nunes of racism, alleging that he had obstructed justice in the Congressional investigation into Russian political interference, and calling him a" traitor cowboy. "The lawsuit also alleges that Twitter has the legal culpability of the attacks, since "Consciously allowed the defamation of Nunes to continue" by not suspending the accounts. "Twitter did nothing to investigate or review the defamation that appeared at first glance on its platform," he says. "As part of his agenda to stifle the voice of Nunes, causing extreme pain and suffering, influencing the 2018 Congress elections, and distracting, intimidating and interfering with Nunes's investigation into corruption and Russia's participation in the 2016 presidential election, Twitter did absolutely nothing. . "
Nunes also accused Twitter of" shadow shadow "on his account, referring to an incident in which the names of some Twitter users did not appear as automatic suggestions . Twitter has previously stated that the problem affected a wide variety of accounts, and that it arose from the design of an automated system, not an intention to degrade specific accounts. (It also does not fit into the traditional definition of "shadow of shade", since the accounts were still accessible through searches and followers). A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on Nunes' lawsuit.
According to Nunes, the importance of Twitter gives "A duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care" in the surveillance of defamation. "Twitter's use of its platform as a portal for defamation by political agents and its clients is contrary to all the principles of American democracy," the lawsuit says. "A candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship "because" Twitter is not simply a website: it is the modern city square. "It is requesting $ 250 million in damages for the alleged negligence of Twitter.
Some courts argue that Twitter is a kind of public square, but in the context of public officials who engage with users, no Twitter allows people to enter Until now, the judges have supported the right of web platforms to prohibit or degrade users as they wish, and have avoided holding them responsible for user publications.An appellate court dismissed a claim by white nationalist Jared Taylor for a ban on Twitter, and an expansive case against Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple just suffered a defeat in court. The Supreme Court of California ruled that Yelp could not be required to remove a publication from a defamatory user, a decision that the Supreme Court of the United States left in force in January.
If these tweets are legally defamatory, Nunes' accusations against Twitter could be blocked by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which holds that web platforms are not responsible for the content posted by users. (We also do not know if a court would consider them defamatory – simply calling someone racist, for example, is generally a defensible statement of opinion). This complaint does not seem to accuse Twitter of defamation, but it is not clear. that Nunes' negligence argument is much stronger, and that a court is likely to agree to his request to have Twitter suspend all the accounts in question.
Regardless of how far this lawsuit advances, Twitter and other platforms are under fire in Congress, where CEO Jack Dorsey appeared in two hearings last year. Technology companies have every incentive to keep lawmakers from getting angry, even if the courts have been quite understanding.