The American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen, and ACLU of Virginia filed an amicus brief urging a state court to keep anonymous the identity of “Devin Nunes’ cow,” a Twitter parody account. The friend-of-the-court brief was filed in a defamation lawsuit brought by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Rep. Nunes claims that the cow’s tweets are defamatory, and is seeking to unmask the identity of the individual running the parody account.
The ACLU and Public Citizen note in their brief that the First Amendment guarantees Devin’s cow the right to speak anonymously, that the cow’s tweets about Rep. Nunes are constitutionally protected opinion, and that Rep. Nunes has presented no evidence that Devin’s cow made false statements.
The organizations warn that if the court allows Rep. Nunes’ spurious claims to proceed, it will create a dangerous roadmap for public officials to deny citizens the right to speak anonymously, and retaliate against critics. For this reason, the brief notes, numerous courts across the country have set a high bar for unmasking anonymous speakers.