US Republican Congressman Devin Nunes sues Twitter for defamation | News | DW | 19.03.2019
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US Republican Congressman Devin Nunes sues Twitter for defamation

Devin Nunes, a Republican congressman for California, is suing Twitter for failing to remove parody accounts. Some of the parody accounts accused him of interfering with investigations into US President Donald Trump.

A US Republican congressman, Devin Nunes, is suing Twitter and a number of its users for $250 million (€220.2 million) in damages, accusing them of defamation and negligence.

Nunes' suit alleges that Twitter "shadow bans" conservatives to try and make their messages less visible and that it failed to crack down on parody accounts such as "Devin Nunes' Mom" and "Devin Nunes' cow" — both of which are anonymous and accused him of obstructing investigations into the president.

Shadow banning, as described by Trump and other conservatives, purportedly involves restricting the visibility of prominent US Republicans' messages on the social media site; Twitter disputes the allegations.

Read more: 15 years on, is it time to #DeleteFacebook?

The complaint highlighted many tweets, including one from the Devin Nunes' Mom account stating: "Are you trying to obstruct a federal investigation again? You come home right this instant or no more Minecraft!"

Other tweets accused the lawmaker of having "white supremacist friends" and distributing "disturbing inflammatory racial propaganda."

The suit said that Twitter was "knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory."

Liz Mair, one of the account-holders named in the suit, said on Twitter that she would not comment in detail as she was a defendant in the case, "but suffice it to say that I have a very different view on the applicable law (including the First Amendment) than Rep. Nunes."

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees free speech.

Nunes' case echoes Trump

Nunes, who represents California's 22nd District, is a former chair of the House Intelligence Committee and was accused of undermining the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 president election.

Nunes' suit echoes accusations made by US President Donald Trump — who has more than 59 million followers — that major internet platforms discriminate against conservatives.

While not directly mentioning Nunes' case, Trump tweeted that "Facebook, Google and Twitter, not to mention the Corrupt Media [sic], are sooo [sic] on the side of the Radical Left Democrats. But fear not, we will win anyway, just like we did before!"

Nunes accuses Twitter of political motive

Twitter declined to comment on the lawsuit, but in the past the online platform has denied claims that it is politically biased.

Legal analysts have largely agreed that internet platforms such as Twitter are not liable for most content posted by third parties, but the Nunes lawsuit claims Twitter was negligent and failed to enforce its own terms of service.

"Twitter let it happen because Twitter had (and has) a political agenda and motive," the lawsuit said.

law/msh (AFP, AP)

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