Devin Nunes, Don Blankenship sue critics

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is suing Twitter and several critics, including the anonymous proprietors of accounts styling themselves “Devin Nunes’s Mom” and “Devin Nunes’s Cow,” claiming defamation and other torts. Section 230, which protects Internet companies from liability for users’ postings, is likely to prove an obstacle to his claims against Twitter. [ABA Journal; Eugene Volokh, first (Section 230), second (“fighting words” doctrine inapplicable), and third (injunction that suspends entire Twitter account likely overbroad remedy) posts; Mike Godwin and Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason] More: Liz Mair (a defendant in suit), USA Today.

It’s worth emphasizing, in addition, that although the suit claims bias on Twitter’s part against political conservatives, were Nunes somehow to establish as a matter of law that the social media provider is obliged to intervene to remove harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures, it would engage in much *more* removal of conservatives’ tweets and accounts than it does now.

Meanwhile, Don Blankenship, who lost a Republican Senate primary in West Virginia last year, is suing many media outlets and other organizations claiming defamation. Massey Energy, of which Blankenship had been CEO, “owned a mine where a 2010 explosion killed 29 miners. Blankenship spent a year in federal prison for violating safety regulations, which is a misdemeanor.” The suit says press outlets and critics erroneously described the candidate as a felon. [Anna Moore, WCHS]


  • “it would engage in much *more* removal of conservatives’ tweets and accounts than it does now.”

    Would you care to provide any actual evidence of that statement? Conservative accounts are routinely suspended or banned for little to no reason (have you seen the story on the movie Unplanned or looked into what has happened with Stefan Molynieux, Prager U,, etc) while leftists are routinely able to issue death threats and horrible statements with no action being taken against them.

    • Future predictions are subject to arguments rather than evidence as such, so here is the argument:

      1) A new legal obligation to intervene to remove harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures will not in any foreseeable case incentivize Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to leave alone anyone it is currently choosing to restrict, whether the odious Molyneux or Alex Jones or the non-odious Prager. So the best estimate of the number of conservatives who would be restored to monetization, posting privileges, etc. is zero = 0. Even if, as Heresolong might fear, most of these accounts have suffered banning from sheer liberal animus rather than from any violation of TOS or other misconduct, the social media entities will be just as free to indulge that irrational animus as they are today.

      2) On the other hand, a new legal obligation to remove harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures will most certainly incentivize Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to begin removing posts and, prophylactically, entire accounts of conservatives whose accounts are currently left unfettered and which engage in harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures. From my daily experience of Twitter, there are thousands of conservative accounts that engage in harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures. Fear of liability will directly impel the services to remove many of these posts and posters, in addition to which fear of liability will serve as a perfect internal excuse should employees motivated by political animus seek removal of posts or posters.

      The number of conservative accounts newly restricted under 2) would be substantial. I think your argument would be stronger if you acknowledged that my assertion is correct and countered “but at least we’d be able to get more accounts from the other side taken down.”

      • So in summary…

        While an increased number of both conservative and progressive accounts would be affected, if true that conservative accounts are already being affected unfairly / unequally, such unfairness would likely be exacerbated with such a system.

    • In response to the 9:45am commenter:

      Logically, if Twitter were required by law to take a more proactive approach to moderating content, then *more* content would be moderated.

      Your point appears to be that this is already happening to some extent, but only to conservative content. Even taking that as a given, however, a legal requirement that they perform this activity would not result in *less* moderation activity.

      • It wasn’t the issue of more moderation that I was questioning, merely the comment that conservatives would be more affected by the increased moderation. The implication is that it would be worse for conservatives and not more balanced. Maybe I misinterpreted his meaning but it seemed clear to me based on his wording. I find his clarification persuasive, that he meant worse for everyone and that would include conservatives, potentially at a greater rate than progressives.

        I am not necessarily arguing for or against as I am still uncomfortable with the government stepping in, BUT right now social media companies have such a monopoly that many conservatives are being effectively removed from the public discourse. (I don’t consider Molynieux odious and having seen much of his stuff haven’t seen any violations of the terms of service, but perhaps Prager is a better example, however, in the interests of moving the conversation forward).

        “Set up your own” is not a viable option at this point. One company tried and Google just shut them out of the search rankings to keep anyone from finding them, as well as attacking them as being racist when they didn’t moderate their members. When a few small companies have complete control of a market and the ability to keep anyone from entering that market, it starts to become the definition of harmful monopoly that has been railed against. Standard Oil, the original monopoly was a major player in oil production, but the reality was that oil production was small back then and there were few barriers to anyone setting up oil wells and refineries to compete. Microsoft was sued for monopoly but it was actually really easy to download a free copy of Linux or buy an Apple (albeit expensive in the latter case). You weren’t prevented from using the computer you bought or a different OS. In this case it is almost impossible to have any meaningful public presence without Twitter or FB. Add to that the prevalence of Google as a search engine and their ability to manipulate the results and you have a worrisome situation.

        • Unfortunately for most sellers of computers, you paid for windows whether you wanted it or not. The only thing allowing that was ms’s monopoly power. They brought it fully to bear against IBM with windows 95. So even if you bought a computer pre-installed with OS/2, IBM still had to fork over the price of win 95 to MS in order to be able to license any machines to run win 95…