The Trump Justice Department tried forcing Twitter to reveal the identity of a Devin Nunes parody account

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In this Oct. 19, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to sign a “Presidential Memorandum Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West,” Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz.. Standing behind the president is Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

  • The Trump Department of Justice tried to force Twitter to say who was behind the account, @NunesAlt.
  • The account makes fun of Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and Trump loyalist.
  • “I’m learning about this just as everyone else is,” the person behind @NunesAlt told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Justice tried to use its subpoena power to reveal the identity of a person on Twitter who made fun of one of former Donald Trump’s top allies in Congress, according to a court document revealed Monday.

According to the document, first reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Poulsen, the department – then under the control of former Attorney General William Barr – last year sought to compel Twitter to reveal who was behind the account, @NunesAlt.

The action came months after a judge threw out a lawsuit from Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and Trump loyalist, which had alleged that the account and others like it were guilty of defamation.

Specifically, the Justice Department sought all “customer or subscriber account information” for @NunesAlt, beginning October 1, 2020. It also fought to prevent the demand from being made public, claiming that doing so could lead to the destruction of evidence.

Twitter, however, noted the timing in its response to the Justice Department’s demand. In the filing, which had been kept out of the public eye until now, the company said the subpoena “may be related to Congressman Devin Nunes’s repeated efforts to unmask individuals behind parody accounts critical of him.” Twitter characterized those efforts as an attempt “to suppress critical speech.”

A spokesperson for Nunes did not immediately return a request for comment. After losing the 2020 election, Trump gave Nunes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, thanking the lawmaker for his steadfast commitment to defending him.

The person behind @NunesAlt, meanwhile, told Insider they were befuddled by the latest development, which came as a total shock.

“I’m learning about this just as everyone else is,” they said.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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Twitter accidentally locked GOP Rep. Devin Nunes out of his account because he failed its anti-spam filter

Devin Nunes
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, pauses at the end of testimony by witnesses Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019,

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes was briefly locked out of his Twitter account on Tuesday evening after he failed to get past the company’s anti-spam filters, the company said.

“Our automated systems took enforcement action on the account in error and it has since been reversed. The enforcement action was taken as a result of the account’s failure to complete an anti-spam challenge that we regularly deploy across the service,” a Twitter spokesperson told Insider.

Twitter, like other websites, uses reCAPTCHAs – puzzles that require users to click on certain images to prove they’re humans. According to Twitter’s statement, Nunes was unable to successfully complete a reCAPTCHA, prompting Twitter’s systems to block access to his account.

It is unclear whether it was Nunes or a staffer for Nunes was responsible for the reCAPTCHA fail. A spokesperson for Nunes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter users were quick to mock Nunes’ over the suspension given his antagonistic history with the social media platform.

“this can’t be real,” tweeted the account @DevinCow, while the account @DevinAlt mocked Nunes’ inability to solve the reCAPTCHA puzzle.

 

In March 2019, Nunes sued Twitter for $250 million over tweets posted by the two anonymous parody accounts, as well as a real account for Republican strategist Liz Mair. Nunes had argued that Twitter was liable for the tweets, which he said ruined his reputation and contributed to him winning a 2018 election by a “much narrower margin” than in previous years.

In June 2020, the courts tossed out his case, ruling that the social media network cannot be held liable for unflattering tweets made by its users.

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