Internet Law

Twitter dismissed from Rep. Devin Nunes’ defamation suit over parody accounts

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A Virginia judge has dismissed Twitter from a $250 million defamation suit filed by Republican California congressman Devin Nunes that targeted parody accounts claiming to be written by Nunes’ mother and a cow.

Judge John Marshall of Henrico County, Virginia, said Twitter was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields websites that host third-party content.

The Washington Post, the Fresno Bee, Raw Story and Ars Technica have coverage of the June 24 decision.

Nunes had argued that Twitter has a bias toward a point of view that makes it a content provider or creator that isn’t protected by Section 230. Marshall said there is no evidence that Twitter helped draft the content that is the subject of the lawsuit, and Nunes’ allegation that Twitter is a content provider “is a conclusion without facts.”

“Plaintiff seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its internet platform,” Marshall wrote. “The court refuses to do so.”

Other defendants in Nunes’ suit are the parody Twitter accounts @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow. Nunes alleges that those accounts coordinated with another defendant and Twitter user, Republican political consultant Liz Mair, in “a vicious defamation campaign.” All three remain in the lawsuit.

Tweets targeted in the lawsuit include:

• Mair’s tweet saying Nunes had an “investment in a winery that allegedly used underage hookers to solicit investment.”

• A tweet by the purported mother alleging that Nunes was “running around DC jumping from Ubers doing political stunts, obstructing an investigation he was supposed to lead, leaking classified info.”

• A tweet by the purported mother alleging that Nunes was “eyeball-deep in a federal obstruction investigation.”

• Tweets purportedly written by the cow that said Nunes was a “treasonous cowpoke,” a “traitor” and was “whey over his head in crime.”

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