A Virginia judge ruled last week that the Republican lawmaker's lawsuit against Twitter could proceed to trial in Virginia,meaning the company may finally be forced to disclose evidence of bias against conservative users.
弗吉尼亚州一名法官上周裁定，共和党议员对 Twitter 的诉讼可能在弗吉尼亚州进行审判，这意味着该公司可能最终被迫披露针对保守派用户的偏见证据
When Rep.Devin Nunes,R-Calif.,sued Twitter in Virginia court in March for negligence over multiple cases of defamation and impersonation by the social media giant's users,he was mocked and laughed at for thinking his case would accomplish anything.But following a Virginia judge's ruling last week that Nunes'suit could proceed to trial in the Old Dominion,it may be Nunes who gets the last laugh.
今年3月，R-Calif.众议员 Devin Nunes 在弗吉尼亚州法院起诉 Twitter，称其在多起诽谤和冒充 Twitter 用户的案件中玩忽职守。但是在上周弗吉尼亚州法官裁定 Nunes 的诉讼可以在旧自治领进行审判之后，也许 Nunes 才是笑到最后的人。
Nunes,who was first elected to Congress 2002,rose to prominence following the 2016 election as the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence(HPSCI).With Nunes leading the charge to investigate the origins of the allegations of treasonous Russian collusion against President Donald Trump and his political campaign,the collusion narrative was rapidly shown to be a false fabrication bought and paid for by the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.As HPSCI chair,it was Nunes who forced Fusion GPS to disclose that its hiring of Christopher Steele,a foreign spy,to collude with foreign officials to manufacture and spread dirt on Trump and his associates was in fact funded by Team Clinton.It was Nunes who forced the declassification and release of key spy warrants that showed the FBI and Department of Justice fed false allegations to federal spy courts in order to justify spying on Trump campaign affiliates.
努内斯于2002年第一次当选国会议员，在2016年当选众议院常设情报委员会(HPSCI)主席后声名鹊起。在努内斯带头调查俄罗斯对唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)总统及其竞选团队进行叛国勾结的指控的起源之际，这种勾结的说法很快被证明是虚假的，是希拉里·克林顿(Hillary Clinton)和民主党全国委员会(Democratic National Committee)的总统竞选团队买单。作为 HPSCI 的主席，努尼斯强迫 Fusion GPS 公司披露，它雇佣外国间谍克里斯托弗·斯蒂尔(Christopher Steele)与外国官员勾结，制造并散布有关特朗普及其助手的丑闻，实际上是由克林顿团队资助的。正是努内斯强制解密和公布了关键的间谍授权，这表明联邦调查局和司法部向联邦间谍法庭提供了虚假指控，以便为对特朗普竞选团队的间谍活动提供正当理由。
Through his work exposing the faulty foundation of the Russian collusion hoax,Nunes attracted the ire of left-wing dark money groups and Democratic activists eager to take him down and thus teach a lesson to anyone else who might dare question the favored conspiracy theories of the Left.Those activists teamed up with McClatchy,the publishing company that owns Nunes'hometown paper,to peddle deranged and false allegations against Nunes in particular and Republicans in general.Which brings us back to the lawsuits against Twitter and several of its users that Nunes filed in Virginia state court in March.
努尼斯揭露了俄罗斯共谋骗局的错误基础，引起了左翼黑钱组织和民主党活动人士的愤怒，他们急于将努尼斯拉下马，从而给那些敢于质疑左翼阴谋论的人上了一课。这些活动人士与拥有努尼斯家乡报纸的麦克拉奇出版公司(McClatchy)联手，兜售针对努尼斯以及整个共和党人的疯狂而虚假的指控。这让我们回到了 Nunes 在三月份向弗吉尼亚州法院提起的针对 Twitter 及其用户的诉讼。
The lawsuits,which are separate yet intertwined,allege defamation against Nunes by the owners of two anonymous Twitter accounts and Liz Mair,a political consultant whose company is based in Virginia.The suit against Twitter alleges negligence by the social media company in knowingly allowing and supporting the defamation to continue on its platform.
这两起诉讼虽然独立但却相互交织，指控两个匿名 Twitter 账户的所有者以及总部位于弗吉尼亚州的政治顾问利兹·梅尔(Liz Mair)诽谤努尼斯。针对 Twitter 的诉讼指控这家社交媒体公司玩忽职守，故意允许和支持诽谤继续在其平台上进行。
"During Nunes re-election campaign in 2018,Mair conspired(and presumably was paid by)one or more as-yet unknown'clients'to attack and smear Nunes,"the complaint against Mair alleges."True to her word on LinkedIn,Mair relentlessly smeared and defamed Nunes during the campaign,filming stunts at Nunes'office in Washington,D.C.and posting them online,publishing videos on YouTube that falsely accused Nunes of multiple crimes,repeatedly publishing false and defamatory statements on Twitter,defaming Nunes online and to the press,and filing fraudulent complaints against Nunes accusing him,inter alia,of violating House Ethics Rules[.]"
"在2018年 Nunes 的连任竞选中，Mair 密谋(据推测是收买了)一个或多个尚不知名的'客户'来攻击和诽谤 Nunes，"针对 Mair 的指控称。"Mair 在 LinkedIn 上的话是真的，她在竞选期间无情地抹黑和诽谤 Nunes，在 Nunes 位于华盛顿特区的办公室拍摄特技并在网上发布，在 YouTube 上发布虚假指控 Nunes 犯有多项罪行的视频，在 Twitter 上多次发布虚假和诽谤性言论，在网上和媒体上诽谤 Nunes，并对 Nunes 提出欺诈性投诉，指控他违反了众议院道德规则。"
"What do I do for these clients?"Mair once publicly wrote on her LinkedIn page."Anonymously smear their opposition on the Internet."
"我该为这些客户做些什么?"梅尔曾在她的 LinkedIn 页面上公开写道。"在互联网上匿名诽谤他们的反对。"
While Twitter lawyers eagerly dismissed Nunes'lawsuits as a joke,John Marshall,the Virginia judge who was assigned the cases,has not been so quick to dismiss the allegations of defamation and negligence.Rather than quietly settle with Nunes and pledge to do better going forward,Twitter instead chose to go to war with both Nunes and Marshall.Working in tandem,lawyers for Twitter,Mair,and the users and organizations running the anonymous account smear operation against Nunes attempted to have the case thrown out of Virginia entirely,claiming that Twitter's user terms required Nunes to file in California,a much friendlier legal regime for tech monopolies like Twitter.Nunes countered with the arguments that because at least one of the defendants perpetrated the defamatory actions in Virginia,actual harm was committed in Virginia,and Twitter actively does business in Virginia,the proper venue for the suit was Virginia.
尽管 Twitter 的律师们热切地将努内斯的诉讼视为玩笑，但负责审理这些案件的弗吉尼亚州法官约翰·马歇尔(John Marshall)却没有那么快地驳回诽谤和疏忽的指控。Twitter 并没有悄悄地与努尼斯和解，并承诺在未来做得更好，而是选择了与努尼斯和马歇尔开战。律师们协同工作，为 Twitter，Mair，和用户和组织运行匿名帐户诽谤行动对 Nunes 试图把案件完全排除在弗吉尼亚州，声称 Twitter 的用户条款要求 Nunes 在加利福尼亚州提交文件，一个更友好的法律制度为技术垄断，如 Twitter。Nunes 反驳说，因为至少有一名被告在弗吉尼亚实施了诽谤行为，实际伤害发生在弗吉尼亚州，而 Twitter 在弗吉尼亚州积极开展业务，因此弗吉尼亚州才是提起诉讼的合适地点。
Marshall took the arguments under consideration and sought to determine whether the facts supported keeping the case in Virginia.At one point,he asked Twitter to provide to him under seal information on the users managing the anonymous accounts and their locations,the number of Twitter users in Virginia,and the amount of revenue earned by the company in the state.
马歇尔考虑了正在考虑的论点，并试图确定事实是否支持在弗吉尼亚州保留案件。有一次，他要求 Twitter 公司向他提供秘密信息，包括管理匿名账户的用户和他们的位置，弗吉尼亚州 Twitter 用户的数量，以及该公司在该州的收入总额。
Rather than comply with the court order,Twitter gave the judge the middle finger and refused to provide the information demanded by the court.The judge responded by allowing the trial against Twitter to proceed in Virginia,a move that could wreak havoc not just on Twitter's bottom line going forward,but also its entire business model.As a result of Marshall's order,the case will now proceed to trial,and Twitter will be subject to full-blown discovery by Nunes and his legal team.
推特没有遵守法院的命令，而是对法官竖起了中指，拒绝提供法院要求的信息。作为回应，法官允许在弗吉尼亚州继续审理针对 Twitter 的案件，此举不仅可能对 Twitter 未来的底线造成严重破坏，也可能对其整个商业模式造成严重破坏。作为马歇尔命令的结果，该案现在将进入审判阶段，而推特将由努尼斯和他的法律团队全面发现。
Given recent congressional testimony by Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey that the social media publisher is not politically biased and"does not use political ideology to make any decisions"about content,the discovery phase might well put Dorsey himself in legal peril.If Twitter is forced to turn over documents showing that the company regularly censors conservative political content or shadow-bans conservative users,Dorsey could potentially face charges of lying to Congress.
鉴于 Twitter 创始人兼首席执行官杰克•多尔西(Jack Dorsey)最近在国会作证称，这家社交媒体出版商没有政治偏见，对内容"不使用政治意识形态做出任何决定"，发现阶段很可能将多尔西自己置于法律危险之中。如果 Twitter 被迫交出显示该公司定期审查保守派政治内容或影子禁令保守派用户的文件，多尔西可能面临向国会撒谎的指控。
"Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions,"Dorsey testified in September of 2018,"whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules."
While publicly claiming that the company supports transparency and openness,the reality is that the company's operations and algorithms are a black box,and one which Twitter executives have fought to keep hidden from public scrutiny.Full discovery could reveal that Twitter's claims of neutral algorithms and no political ideological bias might not have been based in fact.Even worse for Twitter,the state of Virginia does not grant an automatic right to appeal a trial court's ruling while the case is in process.
尽管 Twitter 公开声称公司支持透明度和公开性，但事实是，该公司的运营和算法是一个黑匣子，Twitter 的高管们一直在努力避开公众的监督。全面的发现可能会揭示出，推特声称的中立算法和没有政治意识形态偏见可能并不是基于事实。对 Twitter 来说更糟糕的是，弗吉尼亚州不允许在案件审理过程中自动对审判法院的裁决提出上诉。
"With few exceptions,there is no automatic right to appeal in Virginia from the trial court of record to an appellate court,"states a Virginia State Bar handbook on appellate procedure.
Marshall,the trial judge,also rejected Twitter's argument that the global tech company with operations and users in nearly 200 countries would be significantly inconvenienced if it were required to litigate in Virginia instead of California,where its headquarters are located.The implication of the venue ruling means that Twitter could potentially be subject to negligence lawsuits throughout the country,wherever harm is delivered or felt as a result of the company's failure to enforce its own rules and policies.
初审法官马歇尔还驳回了 Twitter 的论点，即如果要求这家在近200个国家拥有运营和用户的全球科技公司在弗吉尼亚州而不是其总部所在的加利福尼亚州提起诉讼，将会带来巨大不便。地点裁决的含义意味着，Twitter 可能会在全国范围内遭受疏忽诉讼，无论在哪里，由于该公司未能执行自己的规则和政策，造成了伤害或感受到了伤害。
Additionally,Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act(CDA),which has traditionally provided internet service providers and third-party publishing platforms safe harbor from civil liability claims,may not apply in this particular case given the nature of Nunes'claims against the company.Rather than directly alleging that Twitter itself should be treated as the publisher of the content at issue,a claim which would be barred under the CDA,Nunes instead claims that Twitter selectively and deliberately neglected to enforce its own policies regarding the accounts that targeted Nunes for defamation.Federal courts have ruled that Section 230 of the CDA does not shield tech companies from so-called promissory estoppel claims,which arise from a failure to provide promised products or services.Nunes will also likely argue that it is up to a jury to determine based on facts that will arise from discovery whether Twitter was acting as a content-neutral third-party service provider subject to the CDA's safe harbor,or whether it was acting as a publisher itself by manipulating its rules and algorithms to promote certain political content.
此外，传统上为互联网服务提供商和第三方出版平台提供民事责任避风港的联邦通信规范法案法案第230条可能不适用于本案，因为 Nunes 对公司的索赔性质。Nunes 没有直接指控 Twitter 本身应该被视为相关内容的发布者，而是声称 Twitter 有选择性地故意忽视执行自己的政策，而这些政策针对的是 Nunes 的诽谤账户。联邦法院已经裁定，CDA 的第230条款并没有保护科技公司免于所谓的允诺禁反言索赔，这种索赔是由于未能提供承诺的产品或服务而引起的。努尼斯还可能会辩称，应该由陪审团根据事实来判断，这些事实将来自于发现 Twitter 是作为一个内容中立的第三方服务提供商，服从于 CDA 的安全港，还是通过操纵自己的规则和算法来推销某些政治内容。
Nunes need not even win in court for Twitter to face significant legal and enterprise liabilities going forward given the risks that discovery poses to Twitter.Depending on what is unearthed during the discovery process,Twitter could eventually find itself facing class-action lawsuits for securities fraud if the company made claims to investors or Congress that were contradicted by internal documents.
考虑到这一发现给 Twitter 带来的风险，Nunes 甚至不需要在法庭上胜诉，Twitter 就将面临巨大的法律和企业赔偿责任。如果 Twitter 向投资者或国会提出与内部文件相矛盾的指控，那么根据发现过程中发现的信息，Twitter 最终可能会面临证券欺诈的集体诉讼。
By having to reveal its inner workings in a court outside its preferred jurisdiction,Twitter could be facing its worst possible nightmare.Unable to have the case dismissed to its preferred jurisdiction in California,it is now subject to discovery which could reveal that Twitter's claims of neutrality were nonsense from the start.It could be subject to individual and class-action suits alleging harm all across the country in jurisdictions it desperately wanted to avoid.And the tech monopoly could even face civil or criminal securities liabilities if discovery shows that it made material false statements to Congress,investors,or the Securities and Exchange Commission about its company's operations.
由于不得不在其偏爱的司法管辖范围之外的法院公布其内部运作情况，Twitter 可能面临着最糟糕的噩梦。由于无法将此案撤回到加利福尼亚州的司法管辖范围内，该案目前正处于被发现的过程中，这可能会揭示 Twitter 声称的中立性从一开始就是无稽之谈。它可能会受到个人和集体诉讼的影响，声称在全国各地的司法管辖区，它迫切希望避免的伤害。如果发现这家科技垄断公司向国会、投资者或美国证券交易委员会(Securities And Exchange Commission，简称 sec)就其公司的运营情况做出了重大虚假陈述，它甚至可能面临民事或刑事证券责任。
In many ways,Twitter has already lost a big battle with significant implications for the company's future.Being forced to go through discovery in what it clearly considers to be a hostile venue is not a costless exercise for the tech giant.Twitter now has a choice to make:will it quietly concede Nunes'claims,promise to eliminate political bias in its operations,and stave off a potential legal disaster,or will it continue to thumb its nose at court orders in the hope that some federal court might save it from itself?
在很多方面，Twitter 已经输掉了一场对公司未来意义重大的战役。对于这家科技巨头来说，被迫在一个它明显认为是敌对的地方进行发现并不是一项毫无代价的活动。现在，Twitter 面临着一个选择:是默认 Nunes 的主张，承诺消除其运营中的政治偏见，避免潜在的法律灾难，还是继续对法院命令嗤之以鼻，希望某个联邦法院能够拯救自己？
Twitter's response will have ramifications far beyond its own business.How this case shakes out could shape the legal environment for social media companies for years or decades to come.
Sean Davis is the co-founder of The Federalist.肖恩·戴维斯是《联邦党人》的联合创始人
Photo 照片Gage Skidmore/Flickr