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Devin Nunes’ Lawsuit Against Twitter Could Turn Into The Company’s Worst Nightmare

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devin-nunes-lawsuit-against-twitter-could-turn-into-the-companys-worst-nightmare

A Virginia judge ruled last week that the Republican lawmaker's lawsuit against Twitter could proceed to trial in Virginia, meaning the company may finally be forced to disclose evidence of bias against conservative users.

Sean Davis

October 8, 2019

When Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., sued Twitter in Virginia court in March for negligence over multiple cases of defamation and impersonation by the social media giant’s users, he was mocked and laughed at for thinking his case would accomplish anything. But following a Virginia judge’s ruling last week that Nunes’ suit could proceed to trial in the Old Dominion, it may be Nunes who gets the last laugh.

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Marshall took the arguments under consideration and sought to determine whether the facts supported keeping the case in Virginia. At one point, he asked Twitter to provide to him under seal information on the users managing the anonymous accounts and their locations, the number of Twitter users in Virginia, and the amount of revenue earned by the company in the state.

Rather than comply with the court order, Twitter gave the judge the middle finger and refused to provide the information demanded by the court. The judge responded by allowing the trial against Twitter to proceed in Virginia, a move that could wreak havoc not just on Twitter’s bottom line going forward, but also its entire business model. As a result of Marshall’s order, the case will now proceed to trial, and Twitter will be subject to full-blown discovery by Nunes and his legal team.

Given recent congressional testimony by Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey that the social media publisher is not politically biased and “does not use political ideology to make any decisions” about content, the discovery phase might well put Dorsey himself in legal peril. If Twitter is forced to turn over documents showing that the company regularly censors conservative political content or shadow-bans conservative users, Dorsey could potentially face charges of lying to Congress.

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In many ways, Twitter has already lost a big battle with significant implications for the company’s future. Being forced to go through discovery in what it clearly considers to be a hostile venue is not a costless exercise for the tech giant. Twitter now has a choice to make: will it quietly concede Nunes’ claims, promise to eliminate political bias in its operations, and stave off a potential legal disaster, or will it continue to thumb its nose at court orders in the hope that some federal court might save it from itself?

Twitter’s response will have ramifications far beyond its own business. How this case shakes out could shape the legal environment for social media companies for years or decades to come.

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