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.
Devin Nunes became a major target for left wing loonies as a result of his outstanding investigative work while heading the House Intel Committee, probing the Russia Hoax. Twitter claims to be neutral, but conservatives have long claimed that it allows unfair practices against conservatives. The big deal about this ruling is that Nunes can now get into discovery, and Twitter has next to no hope to appeal the ruling. I well remember how the Left mocked Nunes as a crybaby and claimed the lawsuit would go nowhere. Now Twitter will almost certainly face a jury if they fail to settle, and the facts are such that Nunes will be a very sympathetic plaintiff.
Here are some of the possible ramifications of today's ruling:
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.
Nunes, who was first elected to Congress 2002, rose to prominence following the 2016 election as the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). With Nunes leading the charge to investigate the origins of the allegations of treasonous Russian collusion against President Donald Trump and his political campaign, the collusion narrative was rapidly shown to be a false fabrication bought and paid for by the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. ...
Through his work exposing the faulty foundation of the Russian collusion hoax, Nunes attracted the ire of left-wing dark money groups and Democratic activists eager to take him down and thus teach a lesson to anyone else who might dare question the favored conspiracy theories of the Left. Those activists teamed up with McClatchy, the publishing company that owns Nunes’ hometown paper, to peddle deranged and false allegations against Nunes in particular and Republicans in general. ...
The lawsuits, which are separate yet intertwined, allege defamation against Nunes by the owners of two anonymous Twitter accounts and Liz Mair, a political consultant whose company is based in Virginia. The suit against Twitter alleges negligence by the social media company in knowingly allowing and supporting the defamation to continue on its platform.
“During Nunes re-election campaign in 2018, Mair conspired (and presumably was paid by) one or more as-yet unknown ‘clients’ to attack and smear Nunes,” the complaint against Mair alleges. “True to her word on LinkedIn, Mair relentlessly smeared and defamed Nunes during the campaign, filming stunts at Nunes’ office in Washington, D.C. and posting them online, publishing videos on YouTube that falsely accused Nunes of multiple crimes, repeatedly publishing false and defamatory statements on Twitter, defaming Nunes online and to the press, and filing fraudulent complaints against Nunes accusing him, inter alia, of violating House Ethics Rules[.]”
While publicly claiming that the company supports transparency and openness, the reality is that the company’s operations and algorithms are a black box, and one which Twitter executives have fought to keep hidden from public scrutiny. Full discovery could reveal that Twitter’s claims of neutral algorithms and no political ideological bias might not have been based in fact. Even worse for Twitter, the state of Virginia does not grant an automatic right to appeal a trial court’s ruling while the case is in process.
Nunes need not even win in court for Twitter to face significant legal and enterprise liabilities going forward given the risks that discovery poses to Twitter. Depending on what is unearthed during the discovery process, Twitter could eventually find itself facing class-action lawsuits for securities fraud if the company made claims to investors or Congress that were contradicted by internal documents.
By having to reveal its inner workings in a court outside its preferred jurisdiction, Twitter could be facing its worst possible nightmare. Unable to have the case dismissed to its preferred jurisdiction in California, it is now subject to discovery which could reveal that Twitter’s claims of neutrality were nonsense from the start. It could be subject to individual and class-action suits alleging harm all across the country in jurisdictions it desperately wanted to avoid. And the tech monopoly could even face civil or criminal securities liabilities if discovery shows that it made material false statements to Congress, investors, or the Securities and Exchange Commission about its company’s operations.
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.