Devin Nunes just learned a lesson in the power of the Streisand Effect.
The Republican congressman this week filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and a series of parody accounts that have mocked him online, claiming defamation, The Hill reported. The suit was widely mocked and Nunes panned as thin-skinned, but it also had what was likely an unintended side effect — a surge in popularity for the “Devin Nunes Cow” parody account that was named in the lawsuit.
The boost in popularity was not a surprise to those familiar with the Streisand effect. The internet phenomenon is named for Barbara Streisand, who in 2003 tried to take action to suppress photographs of her Malibu, California, home. But Streisand’s actions only helped the pictures get more attention, spreading them around the internet even in an internet age when social media was in its nascent stage.
The Streisand effect has been observed many other times, with efforts to censor or suppress information online usually having the opposite effect. That is the case with the “Devin Nunes Cow” twitter account, which has seen a surge in followers since being named in the lawsuit. The account now has more than 454,000 followers and is growing by several thousand more followers every hour, which is not only more than Nunes himself, but more than any other Republican member of Congress and all but a small handful of Democrats (as Business Insider noted, freshman Republican Dan Crenshaw is the closest with roughly half of the Devin Nunes Cow account).
The “Devin Nunes Cow” account was made to mock the California Republican’s previous profession as a farmer, and used mostly farm and bovine-related puns to mock him. As NYMag.com noted, some of the put-downs included “Devin’s boots are full of manure,” and “Devin is whey over his head in crime.” There were other criticisms of his time at the helm of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation and his controversial end, where Republicans declared no wrongdoing on the part of Donald Trump.
Rep. Nunes is suing Twitter and several of its users for more than $250 million, accusing them of defamation and negligence. https://t.co/sNC7qcwcOQ— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 20, 2019
The $250 million lawsuit from Devin Nunes also took aim directly at Twitter, saying that the social media outlet was censoring conservative voices and giving the parody accounts a platform to mock and defame him. Legal experts said he will likely face an uphill battle as both accounts named (there was another called “Devin Nunes Mom” that pretended to be a disappointed mother) appear to be parody.
The “Devin Nunes Cow” account, meanwhile, has continued to mock Devin Nunes to an ever-growing base of followers.