Congressman Devin Nunes has sued a number of media companies and other entities, including CNN and the Washington Post, for publishing articles he says damaged his reputation, and also Twitter, the home of several anonymous accounts who mock the former dairy farmer and Trump ally as “treasonous cowpoke.”
But this may not have been the best strategy, as one of the parody accounts he sued “Devin Nunes’ Cow” had only 1,000 followers before the lawsuit and now has more than 700,000 due to the attention it received during the lawsuit.
As these legal cases progress, Friday saw representatives of Nunes and Twitter appear in court to hear whether the social media company’s motion to dismiss would be granted. Judge John Marshall “did not issue a ruling,” but he did bring up CDA’s Section 230 to “raise pointed questions about Nunes’ arguments.”
Marshall said that the law doesn’t require Twitter and similar platforms to be neutral, while it does give them legal protections against any lawsuits caused by user-generated content published on their platforms.
To change this, the judge said, the law must be changed, and he also dismissed President Donald Trump’s recent executive order addressing the issue of immunity provided to social media companies under Section 230 as irrelevant to the case, as it “isn’t a law.”
Twitter’s legal representative presented as a similar argument, while accusing Nunes’ attorney Steven Biss of wanting the court to rule in the congressman’s favor by “enacting a new law.”
Biss, meanwhile, said that Twitter’s actions meant the company had overstepped the bounds by censoring conservative content while promoting that which is critical or derogatory of his client.
The lawsuit specifically mentions that the anonymous anti-Nunes campaign on Twitter was designed to harm his reelection chances in 2018. (He eventually won – “but by the narrowest margin of his political career,” according to the article.)
Nunes is also asking the court to order Twitter to identify those behind the two anonymous accounts, so that they, too, could be sued.
But Biss said this effort is “at a dead end.”
Like Twitter, the news publishers who were sued for their reporting also want these cases dismissed or moved from Virginia to California, saying the legal action represented “a baseless attack on local journalism.”