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California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and several of its unnamed users for $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages, and is accusing the social media site of “shadow-banning conservatives” to influence the 2018 elections.
In the complaint filed Monday in the Circuit Court for the county of Henrico, Virginia, Nunes says Twitter attempted to derail his work on the House Intelligence Committee by “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.”
A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
In addition to the monetary damages sought, the lawsuit — which cites “negligence, defamation per se, insulting words, and civil conspiracy” — seeks to compel Twitter to reveal the names of the people behind the accounts “Devin Nunes’ Mom,” “Devin Nunes’ cow,” “Fire Devin Nunes” and “Devin Nunes Grapes,” and to permanently suspend a number of users whose posts “contain false and defamatory statements.”
Nunes’ personal attorney, Steven S. Biss, tells Fox News, “Twitter is a machine. It is a modern-day Tammany Hall. Congressman Nunes intends to hold Twitter fully accountable for its abusive behavior and misconduct.”
Services like Twitter are usually legally exempt from defamation liability suits, but Nunes’ team says, “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.”
Testifying before Congress in September, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reiterated that Twitter doesn’t make decisions based on “political ideology,” adding that it wouldn’t make business sense for Twitter to dump large groups of Republicans, and calling the platform a new-age “public square” where almost anything should be allowed to be said.
Nunes’ complaint says the user called “Davin Nunes’ Mom,” used his name, falsely impersonated his mother, and created the account solely to defame him “with Twitter’s consent.”
That account has since been suspended, but the lawsuit includes screenshots of tweets, including a lewd drawing of President Vladimir Putin, President Trump and Nunes based on the film “Human Centipede.” According to the complaint, “Twitter did nothing to investigate or review the defamation that appeared in plain view on its platform” and has “consciously allowed the defamation of Nunes to continue.”
Accused of having “made unauthorized disclosures of classified information,” Nunes became a target of an ethics investigation in April 2017 and stepped aside from the House’s Russia probe.