In the lead up to the 2020 election, bias against conservatives by the major social media platforms is all but a foregone conclusion, despite firm denials from Facebook and Twitter.
And now someone is officially fighting back.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., filed a major lawsuit on Monday seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages against Twitter and two social media users, accusing the company of “shadow-banning conservatives” to secretly hide their posts, systematically censoring opposing viewpoints, and totally “ignoring” lawful complaints of repeated abusive behavior, Fox News reported.
“Twitter is a machine,” Nunes’ personal attorney, Steven S. Biss, told the network. “It is a modern-day Tammany Hall. Congressman Nunes intends to hold Twitter fully accountable for its abusive behavior and misconduct.”
Nunes appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” to discuss defamatory and malicious tweets against him and his family, which are at the center of the lawsuit — an example seen here:
“This is the first of many and what we’re doing here is we’re actually going after Twitter first because they are the main proliferators and they spread fake news and the slanderous news,” Nunes said.
“The case that we are basically making is that this was an orchestrated effort,” he continued. “So people were targeting me. There were anonymous accounts that were developed. And, look, there’s not supposed to be — these accounts aren’t supposed to exist. Twitter says that they don’t have accounts that do this.”
Repeating that this is “the first of many lawsuits that are coming,” Nunes said “we have to hold all these people accountable because if we don’t our First Amendment rights are at stake here.”
“This isn’t 20 years ago,” he told Hannity. “What’s happening is that Twitter becomes the gas lighting for all the news. When they are regulating us, they’re regulating what people can see on my tweets, which they have done, and they are proliferating out things that they agree with with the algorithms that they develop, they need to come clean. They are a content developer.”
More from Fox News on the lawsuit:
In a complaint filed in Virginia state court on Monday, obtained by Fox News, Nunes claimed Twitter wanted to derail his work on the House Intelligence Committee, which he chaired until 2019, as he looked into alleged and apparent surveillance abuses by the government. Nunes said Twitter was guilty of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory – providing both a voice and financial incentive to the defamers – thereby facilitating defamation on its platform.”
The lawsuit alleged defamation, conspiracy and negligence, as well as violations of the state’s prohibition against “insulting words” — effectively fighting words that tend towards “violence and breach of the peace.” The complaint sought not only damages, but also an injunction compelling Twitter to turn over the identities behind numerous accounts he said harassed and defamed him.
In effect, Nunes is saying Twitter shadow-banned him to obstruct his congressional investigation into Russian election interference and potential surveillance abuses at the Justice Department and the FBI, as explained by Sean Davis, the co-founder of The Federalist.
“Twitter created and developed the content at issue in this case by transforming false accusations of criminal conduct, imputed wrongdoing, dishonesty and lack of integrity into a publicly available commodity used by unscrupulous political operatives and their donor/clients as a weapon,” Nunes’ legal team wrote. “Twitter is ‘responsible’ for the development of offensive content on its platform because it in some way specifically encourages development of what is offensive about the content.”
Nunes' lawsuit against Twitter basically argues that Twitter does so much to shape content–censorship, shadow-banning, terms of service–that it functions as a de facto content provider. https://t.co/3ck87y5m4I
— Byron York (@ByronYork) March 18, 2019
The complaint says that access to Twitter “is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American Democracy.”
“A candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship. A presence on Twitter is essential for an individual to run for office or engage in any level of political organizing in modern America. That is because Twitter is not merely a website: it is the modern town square,” the complaint reads.
Talk about fortuitous timing, Davis shared on Monday that he was a victim of shadow-banning, with Twitter deleting a tweet of his and allowing it to show on his timeline so he would think it was still up.
“Twitter confirmed to me today via e-mail that it did shadowban one of my tweets about Lisa Page’s congressional testimony in order to ‘keep people safe[.]’ Twitter deliberately deleted the tweet/URL, yet kept it visible for me when I was logged in so I’d think it was still up.”
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