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Politics

Twitter faces $250 million lawsuit over allegations it 'shadow bans' conservatives

US Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who's behind the suit, accused Twitter of allowing defamation.

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Twitter headquarters.

James Martin/CNET

A Republican congressman is seeking at least $250 million in a lawsuit that alleges Twitter censors conservative voices through "shadow-banning" and makes money from "abusive, harmful and defamatory" content.

The lawsuit, from Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., also names political consultant Liz Mair, and Twitter users @DevinNunesMom and @DevinCow as defendants. Nunes alleges that Mair and the two accounts attacked and defamed him and that Twitter ignored his complaints.

The suit was earlier reported by Fox News, which said it was filed in Virginia state court on Monday. The Virginia court system's online filing system showed that the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday. 

Nunes alleges that Twitter users posted defamatory statements about him during the 2018 Congressional election. He says the company didn't do enough to curb this behavior. The lawmaker didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The lawsuit seeks $250 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

Twitter declined to comment on the lawsuit. It has previously denied suggestions that it suppresses conservative content through shadow banning. Shadow banning is the practice of making a post visible only to the person who created it. 

Nunes took exception with a Mair tweet in which the political consultant directed her followers to a Fresno Bee article about a separate lawsuit against a winery that was partly owned by Nunes. Mair's tweet implied that the winery was involved in illegal activity including drug use and prostitution, according to the lawsuit.

Mair said on Twitter Monday that she's declining to comment on the lawsuit. She didn't immediately respond to a message sent to her consulting firm. 

Another Twitter account @DevinNunesMom impersonated Nunes mom and falsely accused the lawmaker of perjury and obstruction of justice, according to the lawsuit.

The @DevinNunesMom account has been suspended. 

As of Monday night, the @DevinCow account was still active and gaining thousands of followers since news of the lawsuit was first reported. The account, which had more than 107,000 followers as of Tuesday morning, didn't immediately respond to a tweet asking for comment about the lawsuit. 

Originally published March 18
Update, March 19: Includes information about when the lawsuit was filed and the number of @DevinCow's followers.