‘When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) A Virginia state judge has ruled that Twitter can continue to target conservatives without “Section 230” consequences, despite a recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump.
Nunes also alleged that the company selectively enforces its terms of service, and in doing so negligently allows for abusive behavior against conservatives to proliferate.
But Judge John Marshall disagreed—not about Twitter’s overt bias, but whether it can be punished under Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act.
The 1996 federal legislation regulates publishers for defamatory and illicit content. Marshall determined that Twitter and other social media companies are not liable for what other people post on their sites.
Nunes “seeks to have the court treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of the content provided by others based on its allowing or not allowing certain content to be on its internet platform,” Marshall wrote. “The court refuses to do so.”
Trump issued his executive order in May—after Twitter began its policy of erroneously fact-checking his tweets—to reaffirm that the act granted protections to platforms that screened obscene or graphic content, but not to those engaged in political censorship or other forms of partisan editorializing.
“This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic,” said the order. “When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.”
Nunes’ lawyers argued that Twitter’s actions in favoring liberal and left-wing content over conservative content—and promoting tweets that both defamed Nunes and threatened violence against him—means that Section 230 protections should not apply.
He also sued three Twitter account-holders for defamation, including liberal-Republican strategist Liz Mair.
Mair published tweets that “implied that Nunes colluded with prostitutes and cocaine addicts, that Nunes does cocaine, and that Nunes was involved in a ‘Russian money laundering front,’” according to Nunes’ lawyers.
The court ruling does not mean the California congressman’s case has been dismissed, only that Twitter is no longer a defendant.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey previously testified before Congress that his social media company is a “digital public square” that values diversity, though he admitted to censoring speech.
Twitter released a statement following the Virginia court ruling saying, “Twitter enforces the Twitter Rules impartially for everyone who uses our service around the world, regardless of their background or political affiliation.”