The US congressman Devin Nunes sent the Twitterverse spiraling into hilarity late on Monday with his lawsuit listing the purported crimes of Twitter users “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.
In the lawsuit against Twitter and a handful of users, the California Republican claims to be the victim of vicious internet trolls, as well as the victim of selective censorship by the social media company. He is alleging that by “shadow-banning” his account, Twitter allowed for the selective amplification of “defamers” such as “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.
(Shadow-banning, a term used for when certain users are not visible in automatic search results, has repeatedly been debunked as an effort to silence conservatives. Twitter has changed the way it algorithmically ranks users, based on their behavior, but the company has maintained that it is content-neutral.)
But in filing the lawsuit, Nunes ultimately fell victim to the Streisand effect: when an attempt to censor something ends up bringing more attention to it.
In suing these Twitter users, Nunes listed some of their tweets, thus ensuring thousands, if not millions, more people saw what the lawsuit characterized as “defamation”. By the time Nunes filed the lawsuit, Twitter had already suspended Devin Nunes’ Mom. Devin Nunes’ Cow had more than 1,200 followers.
Devin Nunes’ Cow now has 107,000 followers. “Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom”, a new user purporting to be the same account as Devin Nunes’ Mom, was created and now has more than 8,000 followers. Other accounts include Devin Nunes’ Goat, with 240 followers, Devin Nunes’ Lawyer, with 1,120 followers, Devin Nunes’ Grandma with 1,160 followers, and Devin Nunes’ Cock – a rooster with 590 followers.
It didn’t help Nunes’ case that his attorneys never found the true identities behind “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”, so pieces of the complaint read as if Nunes’ actual mother and his cow were the perpetrators, turning the lawsuit into a parody of itself.
“In her endless barrage of tweets, Devin Nunes’ Mom maliciously attacked every aspect of Nunes’ character, honesty, integrity, ethics and fitness to perform his duties as a United States Congressman,” the complaint states.
“Devin Nunes’ Mom stated that Nunes had turned out worse than Jacob Wohl; falsely accused Nunes of being a racist, having ‘white supremist friends’ and distributing ‘disturbing inflammatory racial propaganda’; falsely accused Nunes of putting up a ‘Fake News MAGA’ sign outside a Texas Holocaust museum; falsely stated that Nunes would probably join the ‘Proud Boys’, ‘if it weren’t for that unfortunate “no masturbating” rule’.”
Twitter has declined to comment on the lawsuit. On Tuesday, Donald Trump tweeted his support for Nunes.