Are Twitter and some of its users engaged in a conspiracy to silence conservative voices on the platform? Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) thinks so, as he filed a $250 million lawsuit in March 2019 alleging the platform engages in “shadow bans” of conservative users.
Twitter tries to silence Representative Nunes
Republican representative Devin Nunes sits on the House Intelligence Committee and served as its chair until 2019.
Nunes claims that Twitter has been trying to derail the work he was doing looking into alleged and apparent surveillance abuses by the government.
He filed a lawsuit in Virginia to the tune of $250 million against the social media giant. The first hearing was held in August. Twitter asked the judge to dismiss the defamation suit filed by Nunes, arguing that the company has no operations in the state of Virginia, and as such, the lawsuit cannot be considered there.
However, the judge rejected Twitter’s argument, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.
Nunes’s complaint against Twitter
In his complaint, Nunes alleged Twitter and its users involved had engaged in defamation against him, conspiracy, negligence, and more.
Nunes’s lawsuit said Twitter was guilty of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory – providing both a voice and financial incentive to the defamers – thereby facilitating defamation on its platform.”
Besides monetary damages, Nunes was seeking an injunction to compel Twitter to turn over the identities behind numerous accounts he alleges defamed and harassed him.
Why was Nunes being attacked on Twitter?
Nunes was leading the charge in investigating the origins of the allegations that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia.
Nunes was investigating whether Hillary and her presidential campaign, as well as the Democratic National Committee, were involved.
As chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Nunes forced the declassification of the document, as well as key spy warrants, which showed that false documents were fed to federal spy courts by both the FBI and Department of Justice in order to justify surveillance on the Trump campaign.
In the midst of all this work, during his reelection campaign in 2018, Nunes was the victim of smearing campaigns. These campaigns spread false and defamatory statements, as well as accused him of multiple crimes.
Does Twitter treat conservatives differently?
Nunes is far from alone, as many conservatives believe that Twitter and other social media companies are biased against their views.
Besides Nunes, President Donald Trump has also accused Twitter of “shadow banning” Republicans and vowed to “look into this discriminatory and illegal practice.”
A few months after Trump’s statement, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before Congress and categorically denied there was any bias on his platform.
“Let me be clear about one important and foundational fact: Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules,” Dorsey told Congress. “We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially.”
But one thing that is especially telling is the ratio of conservative users that get banned from the platform as compared to liberals.
A study found conservatives four times more likely to get banned from Twitter than liberals over the same type of offense.
And we have certainly seen celebrities demonstrate continual inflammatory rhetoric and not get banned. Kathy Griffin and Rose McGowan are two prime examples who have made suggestions for people to engage in uncivil tactics, yet neither has been sanctioned by Twitter.