Twitter Inc. was ordered to identify an anonymous user who is accused of helping promote a conspiracy theory about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.
Rich was shot to death on a Washington street after leaving a bar late at night in 2016. Police say they suspect the slaying was part of a robbery but they have been unable to make an arrest.
That didn’t stop conservative news media from hatching a conspiracy theory that claimed — without evidence — that Rich was involved in the WikiLeaks release of hacked DNC emails in the run-up to the 2016 election — and that’s why he was killed.
Rich’s brother, Aaron, filed a defamation suit and as part of that, his lawyers asked Twitter to identify the holder of an account involved in the theory. They allege that the account, @whyspertech, was the source of a phonyFBI document that Fox News cited in a story — since retracted — that promoted the conspiracy theory.
Read More: Fox Must Face Suit by Rich’s Parents Over Stories on Death
Twitter refused to provide the account information, saying to do so would violate the user’s free speech.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in Oakland, California, rejected its arguments. She ruled that the “information sought is proportional to the needs of the case because the subpoena is limited in scope and Twitter does not argue that responding would pose an undue burden.”
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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