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19 Mar, 2019 15:21

Republican Devin Nunes sues Twitter for censoring conservatives, alleges harassment campaign

Republican Devin Nunes sues Twitter for censoring conservatives, alleges harassment campaign

Republican congressman Devin Nunes announced he will file a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter for its alleged “explicit censorship” of conservatives. Nunes’ complaint is one of many against the social media giant.

In a complaint filed on Monday, Nunes (R-California) alleged that Twitter has taken sides in America’s left-right political divide, “shadow-banning” those on the right, while refusing to take action against “abusive, hateful and defamatory” content from the left.

Nunes claims that Twitter refused to enforce its own terms of service during his election campaign last year, when he says he endured a “defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope.”

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The defamatory content cited by Nunes includes accusations that he worked with Russia to “undermine American Democracy,” that he took cocaine and hired underage prostitutes, as well as a host of lowbrow jokes about his sexuality.

Nunes has accused Twitter of censoring conservatives before, threatening the company with legal action last year for allegedly hiding comments from prominent Republicans. He is not the only conservative to accuse Twitter of bias though, and even President Trump promised last year to “look into this discriminatory and illegal practice.”

The company admitted to shadowbanning a tweet by Federalist co-founder Sean Davis last week. The tweet included an excerpt from former FBI attorney Lisa Page’s Congressional testimony discussing the FBI’s eagerness to find connections between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

Alongside the excerpt, Davis pointed out the irony of the Clinton campaign hiring a former British spy to solicit “damaging information about Donald Trump” from Russian sources.

Although Twitter corrected the issue on Monday, the company told Davis it had in fact shadowbanned his tweet, and does this to “keep people safe on Twitter.”

Speaking to podcast host Joe Rogan earlier this month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that his company has acted too swiftly in banning some right-wing users, but denied any favoritism.

The company’s chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, also admitted that in the context of the transgender debate, Twitter often considers certain factually correct viewpoints as grounds for suspension, and applies its terms of service selectively.

Nunes’ complaint names Republican strategist Liz Mair as a defendant, as well as two parody accounts, ‘Devin Nunes’ Mom’ and ‘Devin Nunes’ cow.’ During Nunes’ election campaign, Mair shared multiple tweets accusing Nunes of criminal activity, claims that Nunes calls “egregiously false.”

Although deleted now, ‘Devin Nunes’ mom’ retweeted many of Mair’s claims, and hit the California Republican with salacious and potty-mouthed insults, once “falsely suggesting that Nunes might be willing to give the president a ‘blowjob.’”

‘Devin Nunes’ cow,’ meanwhile, mostly used dairy-farming puns to mock Nunes, calling the representative a “cowpoke” and “udder-ly worthless.”

Ironically, Nunes’ attempt to gag the parody account seems to have backfired. In the hours since his complaint became known, ‘Devin Nunes’ cow’ went from just over 1,200 followers to almost 78,000 at time of writing.

Twitter is not the only Silicon Valley tech giant to face accusations of liberal bias. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Republican lawmakers on the issue last year, and although he admitted that Silicon Valley as a whole leans to the political left, he denied that his company does.

Despite Zuckerberg’s denial, conservatives were skeptical. Just last month, a Facebook whistleblower told conservative watchdog Project Veritas that the company actively suppresses and deletes right-wing content. President Trump's social media chief Dan Scavino found himself blocked from replying to comments on the platform on Monday, with the company citing its spam rules as justification.

While the right has so far led the campaign against social media censorship, a growing number of voices on the left have joined in. Facebook’s mass deplatforming of 800 alternative news and politics pages before last November’s midterm elections incensed activists and journalists from across the political spectrum.

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