WASHINGTON – We live in a weird time.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., filed a $250 million lawsuit earlier this week against Twitter and a number of parody accounts that poked fun at the congressman, a fierce defender of President Donald Trump.
The lawsuit named several of the spoof accounts and well, yeah, things turned out just about the way one would think. Twitter users started immediately following the accounts listed in the lawsuit, notably one account dedicated to Nunes' cow.
Two days after the lawsuit was filed Monday, @DevinCow, which had less than 2,000 followers, now boasts a following of nearly half a million on Twitter. The massive follower count, which stood at 454,000 as of Wednesday afternoon, even surpassed Nunes' account and its 395,000 followers.
More: Rep. Devin Nunes sues Twitter, spoof accounts for $250 million
The account, unsurprisingly, makes a lot of cow jokes and puns. Its timeline is filled with cow emojis and, thanks to the lawsuit, a lot of celebrities who wanted to be part of the "mooovement."
The cow reference appears to mock Nunes' family's dairy farm, which the congressman has made a central part of his identity in politics. The account's newfound attention spurred a herd of other accounts dedicated to poking fun at Nunes.
The lawsuit accuses Twitter of "shadow-banning conservatives" — including Nunes, while profiting from abusive behavior and language allegedly perpetrated by liberal and left-wing Twitter accounts, including @DevinCow and @DevinNunesMom, both of which are listed as defendants.
Shadow banning is the act of suppressing or burying online content so that it is effectively inaccessible to the public, without actually blocking or suspending a user's account. Many Republicans, including President Trump, have accused social media sites of having a bias against conservatives and has alleged shadow banning was to blame.
In the lawsuit, Nunes included tweets from the parody accounts, including one from the @DevinNunesMom account that made fun of the congressman's work as then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "@DevinNunes your district is looking for you? Are you trying to obstruct a federal investigation again? You come home right this instant or no more Minecraft!" the tweet read, according to the lawsuit.
The account @DevinNunesMom has since been suspended by Twitter.
Liz Mair, a political analyst with the left-leaning advocacy group Swamp Accountability Project, is the only person named in the lawsuit. She told the Visalia Times-Delta that she had not been notified of any pending legal action against her and declined to comment further.
Typically, social media websites are exempt from defamation liability. Nunes' legal team argues, however, that Twitter is complicit in the defamation by "knowingly hosting and monetizing" abusive content on its service.
Last November, Nunes faced the toughest political battle of his 16-year career against Democratic upstart Andrew Janz. While Nunes defeated Janz by a five-point margin, it was the closest any challenger had come to toppling the congressman since his first 2002 campaign.
Nunes' lawsuit now attributes the close race to Twitter, as well.
"Nunes endured an orchestrated defamation campaign of stunning breadth and scope, one that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life,” it reads. “Unlike prior elections, where Nunes won by sweeping majorities, Nunes won on November 6, 2018 by a much narrower margin, receiving 52.7 percent of the 222,379 votes.”
Despite Nunes' apparent anger with Twitter, he is a frequent user. His recent tweets about California barring full-service restaurants from handing out plastic straws unless a diner requests one drew thousands of comments and retweets.
Contributing: Joshua Yeager, Visalia Times-Delta
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Devin Nunes sued a Twitter account dedicated to a cow. Now it has more followers than he does