Devin Nunes has taken the very wise and not at all boneheaded step of filing a lawsuit against Twitter and some troll accounts that have been bombarding him almost to the point of harassment:
Stung by obscene and pointed criticism, Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, said he was suing Twitter and three users for defamation, claiming the users smeared him and the platform allowed it to happen because of a political agenda.
The complaint, which Fox News reported was filed in Virginia on Monday, seeks $250 million in damages. In making his case, Mr. Nunes, a loyal ally of President Trump and the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, repeated several common Republican complaints that Twitter has repeatedly denied: that it censors Republicans, “shadow bans” their accounts and actively helps their opponents.
Though absorbing criticism comes with the territory for politicians, the complaint described the objectionable tweets from the three users as something “that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”
One of the defendants is Liz Mair, who stands accused of runnning certain troll accounts including one named “Devin Nunes Mom.” That defendant’s twitter name alone shows that he was targeted for harassment. For example, I could claim that Congressman Nunes has now sued “Devin Nunes Mom” and without any context, some people would think that he has, indeed, sued his own mother for online harassment. Obviously that is not the case.
Some will claim, with some merit, that the best way to handle online harassment is what I usually do – ignore it. But I also know from personal experience that a constant barrage of hateful tweets (some of which have actually accused me of murdering people, or that I should go “off myself”) reaches a point where it is hard to ignore the harassment. I usually don’t “block” people on Twitter. Instead, I choose to “mute” them. I get a certain satisfaction knowing that people who are screaming at me on Twitter are screaming into the darkness. When you “mute” someone on Twitter you don’t see their tweets. So the harassers are tweeting at me and I have no indication that they are. That gives me a great sense of satsifaction.
Some people have suggested that Devin Nunes should simply delete his Twitter account. But isn’t that giving in to the bullies? Isn’t that giving the harassers exactly what they want – silencing people?
Social media has a legitimate role in modern society. My Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram social media accounts are often subjected to harassment. But I have found that engaging with people who want have a serious dialogue about issues deserve to be heard. Those who simply want to harangue or abuse, deserve to be ignored. That’s not to say that me or anyone else reaches the proverbial tipping point where litigation seems an appropriate response. The recent lawsuit by Nick Sandmann against CNN and the Washington Post is a good example of taking legal action in order to stop and punish the abusers.
While lawsuits fly here and there over media malfeasance, social media abuse, hate speech, and other distracting things, we’re facecd with increasing calls to turn the United States into a socialist economy. We face existential threats from China, Russia, rogue terrorist organizations, state-sponsored terrorism, and a crushing national debt. When you think about those problems, social media lawsuits almost seem like an amusing distraction.