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.

Filed Under: cda 230, devin nunes, devin nunes' cow, intermediary liability, nunescow, pat carome, section 230, steven biss
Companies: twitter


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 2:20pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 2:37pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 2:40pm

    Re:

    Speaking of money has anyone figured out who's bankrolling all these lawsuits, or is that still unknown?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 2:46pm

    Re: Disaster strikes yet again

    You can get the information a platform holds on a person if you can convince a court that there is cause for doing so. Nunes and his lawyers have failed to convince a court there is a cause to do that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    tanj, 24 Jun 2020 @ 2:50pm

    Judge tells Devin Nunes "Don't have a cow, man!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Thad (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Disaster strikes yet again

    Next up, the judge unfairly rules that you can't sue someone who didn't break any laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Bobvious, 24 Jun 2020 @ 3:12pm

    "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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 3:57pm

    Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    I hearby second the motion of the "Nunes Effect".
    all those for say "Yea"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 4:02pm

    If the guilty cow is not identified

    The whole Iowa herd will be sent to the knackers. Their final moos of terror will be forever on the judge's conscience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bobvious, 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:13pm

    Re: If the guilty cow is not identified

    Apparently the townsfolk didn't get this through official channels, instead Iowa herd it through the grapevine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Norahc (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:13pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Norahc (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: If the guilty cow is not identified

    That one is worthy of a "rimshot" button.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Bobvious, 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    "I've already copyrighted, trademarked, and patented that"

    In that case, let my words be for the 1st Amendment to the Nunes Effect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Norahc (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    In that case, let my words be for the 1st Amendment to the Nunes Effect.

    But then I won't be able to sue the content provider Techdirt.

    Just as well I guess. Following in Nunes footsteps has lead to stepping on a lot of cow pies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:34pm

    A useless and thin skinned dipshit represented by a useless dipshit. What a perfect combination.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 5:58pm

    Re: Re:

    Not officially but I heard it was the same someone that backed the Hulk Hogan/ Gawker lawsuit. He just wants to see the world burn and is putting his money to work using scapegoats to do the actual litigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Bobvious, 24 Jun 2020 @ 6:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: If the guilty cow is not identified

    worthy of a "rimshot" button

    That's better than a rimfire button.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 6:23pm

    Re:

    Well, at least General Flynn got off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 6:26pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    JMT (profile), 24 Jun 2020 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Do you have a reliable, citable source for that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Disaster strikes yet again

    I guess when you've broken no laws and violated no rules, you should be sued cause your feelings got hurt?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Shiva, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:19pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Shiva, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    You can sue Techdirt anytime, no problem. They're a US Corporation.

    It's just cheaper and more fun to post than to sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "A reliable, citable source for", "not officially, but i heard.."?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: If the guilty cow is not identified

    But not as good as RIMMING! I love that. My young beautiful wife loves that too. I tried to tell you about it before, but they keep BLOCKING ME!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 8:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think you went down a long time ago, bud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 10:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Bobvious, 24 Jun 2020 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Shiva

    Shiva (Judaism)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives

    Shiva (Hebrew: שִׁבְעָה, literally "seven") is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. The ritual is referred to as "sitting shiva" in English. The shiva period lasts for seven days following the burial. Following the initial period of despair and lamentation immediately after the death, shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others.[1] Its observance is a requirement for the parents, spouses, children, and/or siblings of the person who has died. It is not a requirement for an individual who was less than thirty days old at the time of death.[2] At the funeral, mourners wear an outer garment that is torn before the procession in a ritual known as keriah. In some traditions, mourners wear a black ribbon that is cut in place of an everyday garment.[3][4] The torn article is worn throughout the entirety of shiva. Typically, the seven days begin immediately after the deceased has been buried. Following burial, mourners[5] assume the halakhic status of avel (Hebrew: אבל, "mourner"). It is necessary for the burial spot to be entirely covered with earth in order for shiva to commence. This state lasts for the entire duration of shiva. During the period of shiva, mourners remain at home. Friends and family visit those in mourning in order to give their condolences and provide comfort. The process, though dating back to biblical times, mimics the natural way an individual confronts and overcomes grief. Shiva allows for the individual to express their sorrow, discuss the loss of a loved one, and slowly re-enter society.[6]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2020 @ 11:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Watching your decent into complete impotence and mental illness has been fun bro.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    seekkrpk (profile), 25 Jun 2020 @ 12:24am

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  32. identicon
    ryuugami, 25 Jun 2020 @ 3:21am

    Re: Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    all those for say "Mooo"

    FTFY.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 4:47am

    Re: Re:

    Your tears are delicious. Are those what go into your ayurvedic quack cures?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 5:55am

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

    Did he show you how to lose an election for free too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. icon
    arp2 (profile), 25 Jun 2020 @ 8:23am

    These are win-win suits

    Nunes Wins: Well, he wins

    Nunes loses: Liberal, activist judges are undermining the judiciary! Technology platforms are biased against conservatives views. Send Trump and I money to fight these communists and Antifa.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 25 Jun 2020 @ 8:57am

    I first heard of Nunes because of that bullshit-slinging "memo" he made.
    These bullheaded bullying lawsuits have not had a bullish effect on his reputation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. icon
    Thad (profile), 25 Jun 2020 @ 9:19am

    Re: These are win-win suits

    We'll see. Nunes may well win reelection given how red his district is, but I think stunts like this are making it harder for him, not easier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: "Twitter is not a content provider"

    and every bit as impotent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. icon
    DB (profile), 25 Jun 2020 @ 10:00am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    bobob, 25 Jun 2020 @ 10:05am

    Say, that is good mooos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 11:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Well I heard it was someone who sounds like Petra Boyfeel.

    and lives upto his name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 11:27am

    Judge missed an opportunity.

    Mr Biss, Mr Nunes, please re-MOOO! ve twitter from your lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. icon
    bhull242 (profile), 27 Jun 2020 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: If the guilty cow is not identified

    No one wants to hear what you do with your wife.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. icon
    DB (profile), 29 Jun 2020 @ 11:07am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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