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Devin Nunes cannot sue Twitter over fake cow parody account, judge rules

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was seeking $250 million in damages over the parody accounts. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post/file)

A Virginia judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in 2019 over statements made by a Republican strategist and two parody accounts, one pretending to be a cow and the other his mother.

Judge John Marshall, in a letter to Nunes’s attorneys on Friday, cited a federal law that protects social media companies from being held responsible for what individuals post on their sites.

Marshall, of Virginia Circuit Court, wrote that 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. The court refuses to do so.”

Nunes was seeking $250 million in damages, claiming the parody accounts that taunted him and attacks from GOP strategist Liz Mair almost cost him his reelection. The California congressman is the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a close ally of President Trump.

When Nunes sued “Devin Nunes’ Cow” in March 2019, the account had 1,000 followers. But the news that Nunes was suing made the account go viral. Today it has over 725,000 followers.

Nunes claimed in his lawsuit that derogatory comments made about him by the cow, “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and Mair had slandered his character. He also accused Twitter of negligence for not removing the misinformation such as calling him a “treasonous cowpoke” or that “Nunes was ‘voted ‘Most Likely to Commit Treason’ in high school.”

The creators of the two parody accounts are anonymous, and Twitter will not reveal who is behind them, though Nunes is attempting to sue them and Mair directly as well. Only the lawsuit against Twitter was dismissed.

“Without having read what the judge has reportedly issued, I will just say that from my standpoint this lawsuit and the other in which I am also being sued by Rep. Nunes .... remains an assault on the First Amendment and the core American principle of free speech,” Mair said. “Rep. Nunes took an oath to support and defend the Constitution — all of it and not just the bits he likes — and I hope he will take the opportunity to reflect on that fact again today and proceed accordingly.”

Nunes is litigious, having sued many news organizations, including The Washington Post, and others for making critical statements about him.

The fake cow reacted to the judge’s decision with a picture of milk spewed at Nunes’ face.

“The herd responded to Devin’s loss in court today. I had to hide the ice cream so they didn’t throw it as well,” the cow tweeted.