Devin Nunes faces an uphill battle in his lawsuit against Twitter

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., escalated the feud between conservatives and Twitter on Tuesday with a lawsuit accusing the company of defamation and negligence — two different allegations, one of which poses a more serious question for the social media platform and technology companies in general.

Nunes is claiming that Twitter negligently violated its terms of service when it allowed people onto its online “premises” to say false or disparaging things about him. He is seeking $250 million in damages due to “pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to [Nunes’] personal and professional reputations” brought on by what Twitter users said about him.

Defamation is an interesting legal matter to discuss, at least in theory, but suing for defamation is seldom profitable in reality.

Negligence may not sound as exciting as defamation, but this theory of liability quietly drives most successful civil litigation. Relatively easy to prove, it generally requires that the defendant show conduct that came up short of what can be expected, and that this shortcoming caused the plaintiff’s damages.

People use Twitter to say mean things about each other constantly. If Twitter were held liable for such statements, it is conceivable that the platform could be sued thousands of times every day. The same could be true of almost any social media company.

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