Devin Nunes can’t sue Twitter for parodies between cows and mothers, judge says

A Virginia judge said this week that Representative Devin Nunes could not sue Twitter over posts by two parody accounts and a Republican strategist, ruling that a federal communications law protects the social media company from being responsible for the posts.

Nunes, a California Republican, had requested $ 250 million in the lawsuit filed last year against Twitter, the strategist and account owners over the statements he said were defamatory. One account purported to be Mr. Nunes’ mother; the other pretended to be a cow.

But on Wednesday, Judge John Marshall of the Henrico County Circuit Court in Virginia said Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that says social media companies are not responsible for published content. on its platforms, it provides immunity to Twitter on demand.

The ruling was a blow to conservatives who criticized Section 230 and accused Twitter of bias against them, something Twitter and other social media companies have repeatedly denied. Mr. Nunes had argued in the lawsuit that Twitter is biased against conservatives, “while amplifying the voices of his Democratic detractors.”

President Trump issued an executive order last month directing federal regulators to reinterpret their compliance with that law after Twitter moved to mark some of its posts that had made unsubstantiated claims about voting by mail.

Twitter said in a statement on Thursday that it “strongly believes the court made the right decision” and that it enforces its content policies “impartially for all who use our service worldwide, regardless of background or political affiliation.”

A representative of Mr. Nunes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling does not protect Twitter users from being sued for their posts. One of the parody accounts, @DevinNunesMom, is now extinct, and the other, @DevinCow, is still active. The accounts had criticized Mr. Nunes during impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump this year.

Mr. Nunes’ lawsuit last year noted at the time that @DevinCow had 1,204 followers. In the days following the lawsuit, the account follow-up totaled more than half a million. He now has more than 735,000 followers.

Mr. Nunes’s lawsuit alleged that the parody accounts had participated in a “vicious smear campaign” against the congressman. He also said that the strategist, Liz Mair, “participated in a joint effort” with the two parody accounts to “defame” Mr. Nunes. The identities of the creators of the two accounts are not publicly known.

Ms Mair, who has contributed opinion pieces to The New York Times, said in a statement that Nunes’ lawsuit “remains an assault on the First Amendment and the central American principle of freedom of expression,” adding who was raising money for her. legal defense