Two civil liberties groups have defended the right of an anonymous user(s) behind two Twitter accounts campaigning against US Congressman Devin Nunes to remain anonymous.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Public Citizen took this stance in the court briefs they filed.
The lawsuit was brought by the Republican congressman who accuses the accounts – “Devin Nunes’ Cow” and “Devin Nunes Alt-Mom” – of defamation of character. Along with the two accounts, Nunes is also suing Twitter and Republican strategist Liz Mair, previous reports said.
The accounts, with nearly 800,000 followers combined, act as parody and often subject Nunes to ridicule and criticism, but have also accused him of treason (being “not on America’s side”) and being a national security threat, making the obligatory reference to collusion with the Russians, and calling for his resignation.
Previous reports said that Judge John Marshal had asked Twitter to provide the account owners’ names and addresses to the Virginia state court in order to decide whether to proceed with the lawsuit.
The judge said this information would be “kept under seal” meaning that only he, rather than Nunes’ legal team, would have access to it – even though the request to Twitter came from the congressman’s counsel during the discovery process.
Some have suggested that Nunes has gone to court to force Twitter to reveal the account owner’s identity – but what he’s really done is sue for $250 million dollars in damages from those he views as having defamed his character on the social media platform.
However, the two rights groups are now arguing that the US Constitution’s First Amendment protects the speech of the two anonymous accounts, regardless of the reasons behind their activity. The briefs also said that revealing the real-world identity of those behind the accounts “could cause the user harm.”
“Full First Amendment protection applies to communications on the internet,” the groups’ lawyers argued in the brief.