Judge Sides With Twitter Over Devin Nunes In Case Over Satirical Internet Cow: Section 230 Removes Twitter From Frivolous Case

from the one-for-the-cow dept

Well, some small bit of good news in the Section 230 front: after a judge was clearly skeptical over Devin Nunes’ arguments for why Twitter should be involved in Nunes’ frivolous SLAPP suit over a satirical internet cow that mocks him, the judge has now announced that Section 230 of the CDA rightly protects Twitter.

In a letter that quickly dismisses each of Nunes’s lawyer Steven Biss’s silly arguments why 230 doesn’t apply, the judge basically says “nope” to all of those arguments and tells Twitter’s lawyer to draft an order dismissing Twitter from the case. Here’s just one part of the letter:

The court must look to 47 USC Section 230 and the caselaw interpreting the act and analyze plaintiff’s allegations to determin if Twitter has immunity under the act. Plaintiff would have Twitter be held liable for defamation for the content placed on its internet platform by others and would have Twitter found to be negligent for not removing the content place on its internet platform by others. Section 230 reads in subsection (c)(1) “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. Plaintiff seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its platform. The court refuses to do so and relies on the rulings in Zeran v. Am. Online… The court in Zeran stated “Section 230 creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service. Specifically section 230 precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publisher’s role. Thus, lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publisher’s traditional editorial functions — such as deciding whether to publish, withdraw, postpone or alter content — are barred”.

The judge is also not at all impressed by Biss’s argument of “but Twitter is so biased!” That doesn’t matter:

The plaintiff also alleges that Twitter has a bias towards a point of view and that bias is so extreme that it governs its decisions regarding content that is allowed on its internet platform and that course of conduct makes it a content provider. The allegations in the Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc…. were similar to those by the plaintiff in this case concerning content decisions being one sided and the court in the Nemet case ruled that the service provider was immune from suit pursuant to 47 USC Section 230.

The court finds the issues in this case substantially similar to the issues presented in the Zeran and Nemet cases and applying the rulings in the Zeran and Nemet cases the court finds that Twitter is not a content provider based on the allegations by Plaintiff in this lawsuit. The Court finds that Twitter is immune from the defamation claims of plaintiff based on 47 USC Section 230.

As an interesting side note, the court also cites Section (c)(2) of Section 230, the rarely used part of the law that says you also can’t be liable for moderation decisions. A lot of cases around 230 don’t even consider the (c)(2) issues, because (c)(1) is usually enough to dismiss. But here, the court basically says both of them are good enough to get Twitter out of the lawsuit.

The court further finds that 47 USC Section 230 (c)(2) provides immunity for all civil liability and therefore Twitter is immune from Plaintiff’s negligence claim based on the allegations in the complaint and the courts application of the rulings in the Zeran and Nemet cases to the allegations in this case.

Next up: hopefully the court will dismiss the underlying defamation claims against the two satirical Twitter accounts (Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom) along with political consultant Liz Mair.

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Comments on “Judge Sides With Twitter Over Devin Nunes In Case Over Satirical Internet Cow: Section 230 Removes Twitter From Frivolous Case”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Devin Nunes, to his lawyers: Okay, so that didn’t work out for us. But we’re still suing the other people, right?

The lawyers: Yes, sir.

Nunes: Great! Tell those chumps to wire my court winnings to a Cayman Islands account or something.

The lawyers: But you didn’t…

Nunes: This is still an excellent plan.

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Shiva says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The Destroyer of Worlds! That’s what my name means! Really it does!

Destroyer of Leftist Worlds! Destroyer of Leftist bullshit Transgender Laws!

Destroyer of Biden and Clinton and Comey and Clapper and Brennan!

They are all GOING DOWN! You are all GOING DOWN! Destroyed! Kaput!

And I’m reliable, believe you me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

That’s what my name means! Really it does! You are all GOING DOWN!

You already tried that, fam, and all you got out of that was Charles Harder’s lawyering bill and a judge saying you can’t prove you invented email.

You couldn’t destroy a paper bag in a lit bonfire, that’s how good you are at "destroying".

Bobvious says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Shiva

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This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Disaster strikes yet again

Honestly, if you can’t sue a platform for speech that other people posted, in a mix between a cheap and obvious play to gullible fools and punishment for the platform having the utter gall to refuse to identify anonymous posters on demand what good is the legal system?

This is yet another clear example of why 230 is a terrible law, highlighting how the underlying concept of ‘you’re only allowed to go after the actual guilty party rather than the richer/easier target’ is fatally flawed and has no place in the legal system.

Bobvious says:

"Twitter is not a content provider"

Clearly the judge was not mooooooved by plaintiff’s argument, and stated that Twitter is not a content provider.

Well, Twitter is not a MAL-content provider either, and it won’t be providing for this malcontent.

If we haven’t already clarified the task of the "Nunes Effect", my vote is for "drawing attention to the frivolous and/or vexatious nature of total and wilful misunderstandings of Section 230, and for incremental efforts to strengthen caselaw references and precedent rulings which cumulatively weaken every subsequent vain attempt to abuse the law."

Norahc (profile) says:

Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20191124/23181543450/this-week-free-speech-hypocrites-free-speech-supporter-sheila-gunn-reid-gleefully-sues-someone-calling-her-neo-nazi.shtml#c182

I’ve already copyrighted, trademarked, and patented that…give me all your money now or I’ll sue Techdirt for a bazillion dollars because you violated my IP rights.

/jk

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Anonymous Coward says:

No one can predict court outcomes - that's why we have COURT!

Look, no one can predict with certainty what will happen in court. Judges are people, too. Except for that Flynn judge, of course, he was a dick. But even in that case, Justice prevailed, and now Flynn is free to take a major job in the Trump administration for the next 5 years or so.

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Shiva says:

Re: No one can predict court outcomes - that's why we have COURT

You are so right. My first attorney told me the same thing when I wanted to sue Techdirt for defamation (which they richly deserve). He said there is really no way to predict the outcome (even though we had a great case), Techdirt probably does not have assets that are worth anything anyway (not an accident), and their Marxist Corporatist sponsors will likely indemnify them (secretly or openly). Overall, not worth it, not for my own money. But then I found Harder, and he showed me how to do it for FREE. Yeah, maybe I didn’t win, but it was GREAT FUN! Call Harder, He Can Get it DONE for FREE and you can be FAMOUS TOO!

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

DB (profile) says:

I'm very disappointed

I had hoped that Twitter would remain part of the case through either the case being moved to California (with its reasonable SLAPP) or the Virginia legislature passed its mostly-agreed-upon SLAPP law.

The Virginia law was written so that it technically didn’t change the underlying law, just how it was applied. That would mean SLAPP protections applied to existing cases, notably the presumption that costs and fees should be awarded to a successful defendant.

Twitter has likely spent in the mid-six-figures defending this lawsuit. If Nunes had to pay, it would be enough money that Nunes would have to declare how the lawsuit had been paid for and why it isn’t showing up as a campaign donation.

DB (profile) says:

Re: I'm very disappointed

I wanted to follow up on this.

The judge ruling dismisses the case, not just for Twitter as a defendant. The primary claims were barred by Sec 230. Without the claims involving Twitter, the remaining claims would need to be substantially restated.

There is still a chance that Twitter can recover legal fees, but without an anti-SLAPP law the presumption is that they won’t.

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