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. icon
    PaulT (profile), 31 Aug 2019 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, this is what I meant - you seem to have some knowledge of the basics but not understanding of practical application.

    "Handed out by a DHCP server that keeps a log of the MAC address "

    Yes... but Twitter wouldn't have that info. If this was a demand of an ISP it would be a different story.

    "If it is a PTD, likely could be cross referenced to a SIM card and thus to a specific user."

    Assuming they are using a plain 4G connection and not a wifi router or VPN, sure. But Twitter still wouldn't have that.

    "Given that all modern PTD include a GPS module, with a time/date stamp, you now can get a location down to the accuracy of the GPS unit, likely a few feet."

    But, again, Twitter wouldn't have any such information unless the user has turned on location tracking, and even then if would be coming from the router/ISP rather than the device if they're connected to wifi.

    "Close enough to determine what state someone is in."

    Not if they're using a VPN or something else that hides their actual location. Also assuming that the location info tied to the IP is accurate, which is far from certain. Also assuming that the location data is something that their logs store in the first place rather than being transient data that's jettisoned.

    The basic fact is, while you're right about certain technical aspects, the actual information gathered by Twitter may not contain what you're thinking in any practical aspect.

    "Nunes is a idiot for even trying this. If you go into politics, best plan on growing a thick skin"

    Here, we agree.

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