Capitol Alert

Twitter refuses to say who’s behind fake cow and parody mom being sued by Devin Nunes

Twitter is refusing a judge’s request to disclose the identities of two anonymous social media users who are are critical of Rep. Devin Nunes and are being sued by the California Republican.

Nunes, R-Tulare, demanded the names of anonymous writers through a lawsuit he filed in Virginia against them, Twitter and a Republican political strategist.

The judge overseeing the case asked Twitter to name the anonymous writers in a confidential filing after he heard Twitter’s argument last month asking him to dismiss the case.

Twitter on Wednesday told the judge it does not intend to disclose the names of the authors of accounts known as Devin Nunes’ Cow and Devin Nunes’ Mom, according to documents obtained by McClatchy.

“Defending and respecting the user’s voice is one of our core values at Twitter,” a Twitter spokesperson said in response to questions about the court filing. “This value is a two-part commitment to freedom of expression and privacy.”

Twitter in a message to other defendants in the case said it told the judge that the authors of the accounts do not live or work in Virginia. That matters because the defendants argue Nunes has no grounds to sue them in Virginia.

Twitter’s attorney wrote in the message that the company cleared what information they could disclose to the judge with attorneys for the anonymous writers.

“Undersigned counsel has been in contact with lawyers who have advised Twitter that they represent, respectively, the user or users of the @DevinCow account and the user or users of the @DevinNunesMom account,” the letter states. “Each of those counsel has authorized me to inform the Court, through this letter, that their respective client or clients do not reside or work in Virginia and never used the account while physically present in Virginia.”

Judge John Marshall has not yet responded to Twitter’s filing.

Twitter has a history of defending the identities of anonymous accounts in court. In 2017, Twitter filed suit against the government when it tried to make Twitter reveal who was behind an account tweeting negative things about President Donald Trump’s administration. The government then rescinded the request.

Nunes in March sued Twitter, the parody accounts and Republican strategist Liz Mair, alleging the four had conspired to defame him leading up to his 2018 reelection campaign.

Nunes won his reelection in 2018 against prosecutor Andrew Janz by a narrower than usual margin, about five points. Janz raised more than $9 million for the campaign, threatening Nunes in a safe Republican congressional district.

Nunes in Virginia is suing McClatchy, the parent company of The Fresno Bee, alleging that a newspaper article about an employee’s lawsuit against a company in which he has a limited partnership defamed him. Sacramento-based McClatchy has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that Nunes has no grounds to sue the California newspaper company in Virginia.

He also is suing political research company Fusion GPS and progressive group Campaign for Accountability. Fusion GPS is the firm that in 2016 created what is known as a “dossier” of information alleging President Donald Trump had questionable ties to Russia.

Nunes filed and dropped one more lawsuit in California in which he attempted to sue a retired Tulare County farmer and several Democratic activists who in 2018 contested Nunes’ description of himself as a farmer on ballots. Nunes, who grew up in a dairy family, won the challenge and was allowed to describe himself as a congressman and farmer.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
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