Twitter not liable for users who mock Republican lawmaker, who was seeking $250 million
Rep. Devin Nunes cannot sue Twitter Inc. over users — including a fake cow — who mock him, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Virginia Circuit Court Judge John Marshall said Twitter was “immune from the defamation claims” and all civil liability, citing federal law dating back to the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which gives tech companies wide latitude in moderating their sites and prevents them from being held liable for what their users post.
That law, known as Section 230, has been targeted by President Donald Trump, who last month issued an executive order challenging legal protections for social-media companies under Section 230. The Justice Department has also proposed rolling back legal protections, though legal experts have dismissed both efforts, saying only Congress has the authority to revoke the law.
Nunes, a California Republican, filed the suit in March 2019, seeking $250 million in compensatory damages from Twitter.
“Twitter strongly believes the court made the right decision today to dismiss the claims raised by Congressman Nunes,” Twitter
said in a statement Wednesday. “Twitter enforces the Twitter Rules impartially for everyone who uses our service around the world, regardless of their background or political affiliation. We are constantly improving our efforts to serve the public conversation and will continue to be transparent with the public.”
Nunes also sued the anonymous Twitter users behind the “Devin Nunes’ Cow” and “Devin Nunes’ Mom” accounts and Republican strategist Liz Mair, claiming defamation and accusing Twitter of being negligent by allowing the accounts to defame him.
Among Nunes’ arguments was that the accounts hurt his reputation and caused him to win his last House election by a smaller margin than he should have, the Fresno Bee reported.
While the ruling throws out the case against Twitter, lawsuits against the individual accounts remain.
The Bee reported that Nunes has also sued five other organizations for defamation: CNN, the Washington Post, Esquire magazine owner Hearst Corp., Bee owner McClatchy Co. and political research group Fusion GPS.
In tweets Wednesday, Devin Nunes’ Cow continued to mock Nunes.