Twitter Urges Judge To Toss Nunes' Defamation Lawsuit

Twitter is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Rep. Devin Nunes over allegedly libelous tweets, arguing that he filed the case in the wrong state.

“This lawsuit does not belong in a Virginia court,” Twitter writes in papers filed late last week in Henrico County Circuit Court.

The company adds that Nunes, a Republican from California who is himself a Twitter user, agreed to bring any claims in California when he accepted the company's terms of service.

The legal battle dates to March, when Nunes sued Twitter and three users -- including the anonymous creators of the parody accounts “Devin Nunes' Mom” and Devin Nunes' Cow” -- over insulting tweets. The other Twitter user named in the case, political consultant Liz Mair, is a Virginia resident.

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Nunes alleged that Twitter allowed its platform “to serve as a portal of defamation” as part of an anti-Republican bias. He is seeking $250 million.

One tweet by “Devin Nunes' Mom” that he referenced in the complaint reads: “@DevinNunes your district is looking for you? Are you trying to obstruct a federal investigation again? You come home right this instant or no more Minecraft!”

He alleged that Mair made defamatory posts, including one reading: “HOLY CRAP: A yacht, cocaine, prostitutes: Winery partly owned by Nunes sued after fundraiser event,” which linked to a Fresno Bee article with the same headline, minus the phrase “Holy Crap.”

Numerous judges have ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects platforms like Twitter from defamation liability for content posted by users. Judges have also ruled that only false statements of verifiable facts can be defamatory, as opposed to opinions and hyperbole.

But Twitter, at least for now, is making the more procedural argument that Nunes filed the case in the wrong locale.

“Plaintiff does not allege that any of Twitter's alleged suit-related conduct occurred in or was targeted at Virginia in particular,” the company writes.

The company adds that Nunes' claims regarding Twitter's supposed anti-conservative bias center on “alleged policy choices and editorial decisions that Twitter made, if anywhere, at its California headquarters or another Twitter office -- none of which is in Virginia.”

Mair also filed papers asking the court to throw out Nunes' lawsuit on the grounds that the case belongs in California. Nunes “represents a congressional district in California and has no particular connection to Virginia,” her lawyers argue.

They add that the evidence and witnesses are in California, and that state's laws will apply to most or all of his claims.

“Virginia is therefore an inappropriate forum for this dispute, which consists mainly of a complaint against Twitter -- the only defendant conceivably capable of satisfying Mr. Nunes's claim for $250 million in damages,” her lawyers write.

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