Free speech advocacy groups are coming to the defense of the anonymous owner of the Twitter account “Devin Nunes’ Cow” that is used to attack Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The groups argue the user shouldn’t be unmasked and can legally express anonymous opinions online.
Devin Nunes’ Cow, with the Twitter handle of @DevinCow, has nearly 690,000 followers as it trolls Mr. Nunes, California Republican.
The congressman has gone to court to force Twitter to reveal the account owner’s identity, saying the person shares tweets that are false and defamatory, including claiming the lawmaker is a “traitor.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen, both civil liberty advocacy groups, have filed court briefs siding with the anonymous individual.
“Full First Amendment protection applies to communications on the Internet,” the groups’ lawyers argued in the brief.
They said unmasking the individual could cause the user harm.
“Whatever the reason for speaking anonymously, a rule that makes it too easy to remove the cloak of anonymity will deprive the marketplace of ideas of valuable contributions,” they said.
The Twitter user said he or she is not part of a political campaign, “not a rich donor Democrat, not using foreign money, not involved in a conspiracy.”
The account has a link to a legal defense fund, collecting money to pay legal fees for the defamation suit.
The account owner said extra funds not used on legal expenses will go to Mr. Nunes’ 2020 opponent in his central California district, which includes parts of Fresno and Tulare counties in the San Joaquin Valley.
“Pitch in to help us herd Devin Nunes out of office,” the account tweeted.
Mr. Nunes also wants to reveal the identity of another account used to attack him online, “Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom” with the handle @NunesAlt, that has more than 92,000 followers.
“Devin Nunes is compromised. Devin Nunes is a national security threat. Devin Nunes undermines the rule of law. Devin Nunes amplifies debunked conspiracy theories from Putin. Devin Nunes is not on America’s side. Devin Nunes must resign,” that user claimed in one tweet.
The defamation suit is being litigated in state court in Virginia.