California’s 22nd congressional district representative Devin Nunes has sued Twitter for $250 million, for allowing bad actors to interfere with the 2018 elections, as well as for shadow banning Conservatives that influenced how voters parsed information on the social media service.
Fox News is reporting that according to a complaint filed in Virginia state, the Congressman is looking for $250 million in compensatory damages along with $350,000 in punitive damages from Twitter, along with the individuals that he claims defamed him during the elections that Twitter did nothing about.
The documents are available for viewing on Scribd. Unfortunately they didn’t archive all of the tweets, but the evidence is rather significant. The plaintiff suit points to a Twitter user going by the handle of Liz Mair, in which they claimed she made multiple defamatory remarks. The tweets aren’t archived, but throughout 2018 Mair made multiple tweets designed to paint Nunes in a bad light as part of what the suit claims as opposition research. A pastebin of Mair’s tweets are archived for posterity.
— BrandValue$4B (@LizMair) August 24, 2018
The suit goes through the exhaustive background on Mair’s attachment to a market branding company and the implication that Mair was being paid to defame Nunes.
There was also the highlight of another account that actually had a lot of high-traction tweets defaming Nunes called Devin Nunes’ mom. Devin Nunes’ Mom made multiple defamatory remarks about Nunes ahead of the election along with retweeting Mair.
According to the suit, Twitter did nothing to curb the misinformation and libel being spread by the accounts, which Nunes claims affected the turnout at the polls, where he only narrowly won during the elections last fall.
It’s claimed that part of the disruption of his campaign came not just from the defamatory remarks made by the Twitter accounts, but also from his inability to reach constituents effectively due to a shadow ban from Twitter.
The document states…
“In 2018, Twitter shadow-banned Plaintiff in order to restrict his free speech and to amplify the abusive and hateful content published and republished by Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mom, Devin Nunes’ cow, Fire Devin Nunes, Devin Nunes Grapes, and others. The shadow-banning was intentional. It was calculated to interfere with and influence the federal election and interfere with Nunes’ ongoing investigation as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Twitter’s actions affected the election results. The combination of the shadow-ban and Twitter’s refusal to enforce its Terms and Rules in the face of clear and present abuse and hateful conduct caused Nunes to lose support amongst voters. Twitter’s actions also detracted from Nunes’ investigation into corruption and Russian involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.
“Twitter’s use of its platform as a portal for defamation by political operatives and their clients runs contrary to every tenet of American Democracy, including the guarantees of both the First Amendment and Article I, § 12 of the Virginia Constitution. In the words of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought – not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.’
“United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644, 654-655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting)”
There are multiple citations of Twitter purposefully censoring Conservatives, something that was even admitted to by Twitter staff in undercover footage captured by Project Veritas back in January of 2018.
In July of 2018 Vice News explicitly reported that Twitter was fixing the shadow banning of prominent Conservatives after months of complaints from Conservatives noting that they were being unfairly banned and censored on the platform.
On July 26th, 2018 Twitter’s head of legal and the Trust & Safety department, Vijaya Gadde, made a post stating that Twitter did not shadow ban users, writing…
“We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”
This is incorrect.
Back in February of 2017 they publicly admitted via a tweet that people were being added to a content restriction list without notifying them. Thus, effectively shadow banning them. Twitter even publicly acknowledged that they were throttling accounts by stating in a follow-up tweet that they would be informing people from February, 2017, onward why their accounts would be throttled/restricted/banned.
We heard your feedback – this was a misstep. We’re rolling back the change and we’ll keep listening. https://t.co/9ozPS4XlVI
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 13, 2017
But regardless of what Gadde stated in July, in August of 2018 the Daily Caller reported that Conservatives were still being shadow banned, with various Conservative accounts being locked out of use without Twitter explaining why or giving users any explanation on what rules they violated.
The shadow banning has become so pervasive that there’s actually a website Shadowban.eu that allows you to test if your user account has been shadow banned. Many users have been shadow banned over the years, having their posts hidden, their user IDs hidden from search, or their threads hidden.
This kind of manipulation of content can have severe impacts on society, as inferred by Nunes, who believes that Twitter’s meddling may have impacted the elections.
It’s also not a matter of whether or not Nunes won, but the fact that the elections were allegedly being unfairly tampered with by algorithms attempting to sway public opinion in a specific direction.
Many Leftists don’t see a problem with this so long as the people being censored or deplatformed are their ideological or sociopolitical opponents. However, as proposed in a bill by Florida Senator Joe Gruters, social media sites with more than 75 million registered users need to stop banning and censoring users and content on ideological grounds instead of legal grounds.
Some have opposed the Stop Social Media Censorship Act because they believe that mega-corporations like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are private businesses and therefore can censor at their own discretion. However, as showcased in the lawsuit against Twitter, when the censorship is being used to sway elections it’s no longer a private company exercising their rights, it’s a federal affair affecting public policy.
(Thanks for the news tip Master Nemesis)
(Main image courtesy of CBS Los Angeles)