Devin Nunes, R-Calif., escalated the feud between conservatives and Twitter earlier this week with a lawsuit accusing the company of defamation and negligence — two different allegations, one of which poses a more serious question for the social media platform and technology companies in general. Nunes is claiming that Twitter negligently violated its terms of service when it allowed people onto its online “premises” to say false or disparaging things about him. He is seeking $250 million in damages due to “pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to [Nunes’] personal and professional reputations” brought on by what Twitter users said about him.
From a report: Defamation is an interesting legal matter to discuss, at least in theory, but suing for defamation is seldom profitable in reality. Negligence may not sound as exciting as defamation, but this theory of liability quietly drives most successful civil litigation. Relatively easy to prove, it generally requires that the defendant show conduct that came up short of what can be expected, and that this shortcoming caused the plaintiff’s damages. […] The primary reason that technology companies are not sued into oblivion is the existence of the Communications Decency Act, or CDA, and in particular Section 230, which states that providers of an interactive computer service shall not be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. Ordinarily, a lawsuit like this is properly filed against the Twitter user or account (like “Devin Nunes’ Mom”) and not Twitter itself.
Section 230 and the CDA have become the targets of growing backlash against the idea that technology companies should not be held responsible for what is published on their platforms. Technology companies have voluntarily taken steps to moderate some content, such as extremism, conspiracy theories and fake news, but most personal insults and parodies are still allowed to flourish. Section 230, however, isn’t necessarily bulletproof. At least one federal court has stressed that the statute does not “create a lawless no-man’s-land on the internet.” That provides some basis for Nunes’ claim that Twitter has been negligent in keeping its platform from being used to spread damaging statements about him. But a negligence claim against Twitter may still be precluded by the CDA. The test is whether the cause of action requires the court to treat Twitter as the publisher or speaker of content provided by another. In the meantime, one of the Twitter parody accounts that is mocking Nunes — Devin Nunes’ Cow (@DevinCow) — gained a lot of attention and went from about 1200 followers last week to more than 615,000 followers — and in doing so, surpassed the number of followers Devin Nunes has (about 399k).
of this story at Slashdot.