Judge Wants To Know Who's Behind Devin Nunes' Cow's And Mom's Twitter Account

from the but-does-he-need-to? dept

A new twist in the first of Devin Nunes' SLAPP suits: the judge has asked Twitter to reveal to him who is behind the two satirical Twitter accounts that Devin Nunes is suing over. According to the Fresno Bee:

A Virginia judge has asked Twitter to provide more information about the authors of two anonymous parody accounts that heckle California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes before deciding whether to dismiss the congressman’s lawsuit against the social media company.

Judge John Marshall is weighing a request from San Francisco-based Twitter to dismiss Nunes’ lawsuit on the grounds that it does not belong in Virginia.

Marshall asked Twitter to provide the names and addresses of the anonymous authors behind the two accounts, the gross amount of revenue for Twitter in 2018 and the first half of 2019 and the number of Twitter accounts in Virginia.

The issue, right now, is whether or not the cases should be thrown out for improper venue / jurisdiction shopping. Political consultant Liz Mair (who was also sued) and Twitter have both told the court that the case belongs in California -- and suggested (reasonably) that Nunes only filed in Virginia to avoid California's anti-SLAPP law (which would make him liable for their legal expenses).

So you can kind of understand why the judge wants to know where the still anonymous account holders live, as that could play into the venue question. However, it still seems like Judge Marshall's request is overly broad. He could have just asked for information, should Twitter even have it, of where the account holders reside (I'm not even sure if Twitter has such info). But there's no reason at all for the judge to need to know the names of the account holders, even if he promises not to reveal them, if the goal is to figure out what is the proper venue.

For what it's worth, both of the account holders deny being Virginia residents.

Since this is a request to Twitter, it's that company that is now on the hook here. Twitter has a pretty long history of pushing back on attempts to unmask anonymous or pseudonymous users by courts. It doesn't always succeed, but there are important issues at stake here. There are lots of times when angry recipients of parody accounts have tried to unmask who is mocking them. We see it all too often, and it's obviously an intimidation technique by thin-skinned public officials.

And, relatedly, the Supreme Court has ruled that anonymity itself is protected by the 1st Amendment, so these Twitter account holders shouldn't be forced to give that up just because a judge is curious, let alone because Devin Nunes' fragile ego is offended. While the judge can claim that he needs to know in order to determine if the case is in the proper venue, it seems that rather than requiring the names, merely knowing the general location (zip code?) of the account holders would seem to be a much more reasonable -- and Constitutional -- method of doing so.

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Filed Under: anonymity, california, devin nunes, devin nunes cow, devin nunes mom, fishing expedition, parody, venue, virginia
Companies: twitter


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2019 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Spartacus!

    No, I'M Devin Nunes' Cow!


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