Published: Tue, March 19, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Twitter faces $250 million lawsuit over allegations it 'shadow bans' conservatives

Twitter faces $250 million lawsuit over allegations it 'shadow bans' conservatives

The lawsuit paperwork - which seeks defamation payouts from San-Francisco-based Twitter, plus former Republican campaign strategist and tweeter Liz Mair and two Twitter accounts dubbed "Devin Nunes' Mom" (since suspended) and "Devin Nunes' Cow" (still active as @DevinCow) - at various times spotlights tweets that are, to say the least, not particularly flattering for the congressman.

In the complaint, filed Monday in the Henrico county, Virginia circuit court, 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". Engadget reports that Nunes blames Twitter for his reduced majority in the 2018 election.

The Congressman is seeking $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

"Defendant, Devin Nunes' Mom, is a person who, with Twitter's consent, hijacked Nunes' name, falsely impersonated Nunes' mother, and created and maintained an account on Twitter (@DevinNunesMom) for the sole objective of attacking, defaming, disparaging and demeaning Nunes", the suit said. "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 accuses Twitter of "shadow-banning conservatives", including himself in order to influence the 2018 elections.

Nunes, a Republican, also accused Twitter of publishing defamatory content - including from a handle that purported to be Nunes own mother, according to the complaint filed in Virginia state court.

Nunes' attorney, Steven Biss, did not respond to a request for comment.

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"Access to Twitter is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American Democracy", the complaint stated.

The Twitter account, which has since been disabled, posted missives like: "Devin might be a unscrupulous, craven, back-stabbing, charlatan and traitor, but he's no Ted Cruz", according to the lawsuit.

Nunes's legal team also wrote that Twitter should not be exempt from defamation liability because the platform actively curates and bans content to the point that it should have liability like other organizations that can be guilty of defamation, reported Fox News.

In its prior explanation, Twitter defined shadow banning as "deliberately making someone's content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster".

"The shadow-banning was intentional". Twitter has denied doing it, although some political conservatives -including President Donald Trump - remain unconvinced.

But, Twitter added, "We do rank tweets and search results".

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