Congresscritter David Nunes (R-CA) is suing Twitter and several Twitter account holders alleging negligence, defamation per se, insulting words, and common law conspiracy. He’s asking for $250,000,000 in actual damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. Here’s a copy of his complaint. (H/T, Fox News’ Scribd account)
I’ve read the whole complaint. It describes disgusting tweets of the sort that are far too common on Twitter. I think that it presents a case that Twitter does not fairly apply its Terms of Service, but I don’t understand how it alleges behavior by Twitter that gets around the protection it enjoys under federal law (47 U.S.C. § 230) as an interactive computer service. He seems to have a much better case against the Twitter users than against the service itself.
IANAL, but Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy’s suit in California alleging that Twitter’s unfair treatment of her amounted to a breach of contract seems to make more sense to me.
From my point of view as a Twitter user who was permanently banned based on false and malicious complaints and whose account was suddenly restored when the civil and criminal complaints against me failed, it seems that the only way to get Twitter to live up to its promise “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information, and to express their opinions and beliefs without barriers” is the realistic possibility of legal liability. The Murphy case appears to have a basis in law, Nunes’ suit not so much.
He is suing in state court, which is a venue that some legal practitioners have discussed as a possible avenue for this type of action.
I suspect the argument he’ll attempt to bring is that Twitter, by favouring and encouraging particular kinds of speech whilst silencing others – curation of content in effect – has stopped being a service provided and edged into being a publisher, at which point it loses safe harbor protections and becomes open to libel suits.
Yes, but that isn’t exactly what’s alleged in the complaint.
It hasn’t edged into that territory, it’s dove in head first. They’ve leapfrogged becoming a publisher and landed squarely in being ideological activists and censoring with a political agenda.
I haven’t seen Murphy’s suit, but I’m really waiting to see Nicholas Sandmann’s. As soon as one of these tech behemoths is pushed off the provider immunity pedestal, the game changes considerably.
That said, Congress ought to have dealt with this.
Undisclosed “shadow banning” is little less than an act of fraud. There is an implicit contract of enduring tedious monetization efforts in exchange for the opportunity to use the megaphone in the public square. If that megaphone knowingly doesn’t work that’s fraud.