On August 23, a Virginia judge dismissed Rep. Devin Nunes’ (CA-R) $250 million dollar libel suit against Republican political strategist Elizabeth A. Mair. Nunes sued Mair in March 2019 for allegedly conspiring with his political enemies to spread false information about him before he ran for reelection in 2018.
Public officials using libel suits as a weapon against the press is nothing new. In the time of Times v. Sullivan, southern officials had brought nearly $300 million in libel actions against the press. For reference, Nunes alone has brought just over $900 million in defamation claims in a twelve-month period.
In a new amicus brief, Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union argue that Nunes cannot legally pursue the identity of the anonymous speaker without first proving he has a valid defamation claim. Without meeting this legal standard, they write, the court could threaten people's First Amendment right to anonymous speech.
Nunes is accusing Twitter of “knowingly hosting and monetizing content that is clearly abusive, hateful and defamatory” to undermine the public’s confidence in him, thereby benefiting his political opponents.