Devin Nunes Sues Twitter

Is suing a major social media platform the right way to deal with your feelings getting hurt? Devin Nunes seemed to think so, and it resulted in a lawsuit against Twitter.



Devin Nunes has reached a degree of notoriety due to his recent law suit against Twitter

This past week Devin Nunes, a republican representative from California, sued Twitter for $250 million because they failed to take down accounts that insulted him. He is suing Twitter and two individual accounts for defaming him in order to derail his re-election and deter him from the Russia investigation. This complaint was filed on Tuesday March 18th, 2019 at the Henrico County Circuit Court in Virginia. One account being sued is @DevinCow, created in August 2017 and apparently was inspired by the Nunes’ family dairy farm, this user has made fun of Devin Nunes relentlessly. Another account involved in the suit was @DevinNunesMom but it has since been suspended, leaving the other account in the lawsuit @DevinCow to grow due to the popularity of this case.

Amelia Botts
Devin Nunes’ twitter account showing his 404,800 followers.

To support his case, he cited a bunch of tweets that had accusations of criminal misconduct and crude jokes that as Mr. Nunes would say, “That no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole lives.”

For some, the lawsuit was a way to poke fun at Mr. Nunes; For others, it was a way to prove how toxic twitter could really be. Fake comedic animal accounts are actually very popular on Twitter. One example is Larry the Cat, the political cat who camps out on Downing Street.  Another example is Cats against Brexit. Political satire can stand in for other things, but in this case showing the dissatisfaction with the policies of Donald trump and his supporters. Soon after the lawsuit was filed, defenders rallied for the Twitter account @DevinCow.  One of which was Andy Lassner, the executive producer of ’The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”  On Monday night, Andy Lassner tweeted “Let’s try and get @DevinCow more followers than @DevinNunes.’’ This was successful and @DevinCow now has 605,400 followers, while Mr. Nunes has 397,400 followers on Twitter.

Twitter does of course have rules against impersonation and targeted harassment.  In cases of parody though, Ms. Jacquet said, it would be better if public figures were to ignore criticism from little known accounts, instead of lashing out or in this

Devin Nunes, Republican Representative from California. Placed lawsuit against Twitter.
case suing. Devin Nunes is very unlikely to win this case, given longstanding free speech protections for parody and opinion.  In the past, others have tried suing over fake social media accounts.  For example, Tiffany Dehen, a Trump supporter, sued Twitter in 2017 for an account that impersonated and poked fun at her. This case was dismissed last year.

In an interview with Fox News, Nunes told them that this lawsuit would be “the first of many.” the reason Nunes and his team went after twitter itself is because “they are the main proliferator and they spread this fake news and this slanderous news.” Nunes’ lawsuit also accuses Twitter of ‘shadow banning’ which is where a user isn’t aware that his posts aren’t view able by others except him. Twitter has denied that it’s “shadow banning”, also adding that “We don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.” When asked about whether social media like twitter is in charge of what users posts, I got two different answers. Gabriella Molina, Lafayette sophomore, replied “No, because they can’t control people’s ideas and opinions.” LJS Sophomore Jordan Simpson gave her opinion on this case, saying, “Yes, because they are in charge of taking it down, but if they don’t they are just allowing the bullying to happen.”

Amelia Botts
Jordan Simpson, has an opinion on this case and thinks Twitter is responsible for what its users post.
Amelia Botts
The account mocking Devin Nunes on Twitter, since this lawsuit the popularity of this account has grown.

Nunes wants to force twitter into regulating speech that is mean to himself and other conservatives. So yes, Nunes is drawing more attention to the parody accounts that are mocking and making fun of him, but he is also sending a message. CNN legal analyst Laura Coates said on Tuesday the lawsuit is very unlikely to go far. “The notion that this would be an actual, valid lawsuit is a far-fetched one.” She said on CNN’s “Right Now” adding the fact that the law protects platforms like Twitter. In the past, courts have supported web platforms right to ban or demote users as they wish, and they’ve avoided holding them responsible for user’s posts. If these tweets are legally slanderous, Devin Nunes accusations against twitter might be hindered by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that web platforms aren’t liable for content posted by its users. We also don’t know if the court will be able to find the tweets defamatory because they are all statements of opinion. Because of this and many other things this case will not likely go very far.


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