Mercurial Oakland mayoral candidate Peter Liu is suing Silicon Valley giants Twitter and Facebook for $150 million in damages. Liu field the lawsuit last week in Alameda Superior Court and alleges that both companies limited his reach to his followers on the social media sites with a technique called “shadow banning,” which can shield posn tings from some users on the sites without the user knowing it.
In the complaint, filed Sept. 11, Liu alleges his accounts were shadow banned during his run last spring for California governor. Twitter and Facebook each deny they employ shadow banning. Liu filed the suit on Sept. 11. The exact amount in damages that he is seeking is $150,000,000.50.
Twitter and Facebook orchestrated “secret resistance” against Liu’s campaign, which he says was run entirely on social media, he wrote in the lawsuit. “As a result, voters in California were not able to see my messages and are disenfranchised in the process.”
The hashtag #CESP5, which is a reference to a game Liu says he created, was also shadow banned, he claims. The hashtag also represented Liu’s entire ballot statement last June. He went on to receive more than 27,000 votes for governor, good for 10th out of 27 candidates.
Liu says he became suspicious after several of his followers told him tweets and Facebook postings had become unsearchable. Liu, who is a registered Republican, added, “So many President Trump supporters had experienced the same discriminatory practice from Twitter and Facebook that the President himself said on social media that these practices must stop.”
However, despite filing the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court, it is unclear whether Liu’s complaint can be taken seriously. In 2014, he also ran for Oakland mayor on a platform for improving public safety based on creating neighborhood militias and using a video game he created to solve many of the city’s problems.
And one variation of his campaign logo included a gun fashioned like the “L” in his surname and the “I” represented by a magazine clip. An interview from the 2014 race posted by the San Francisco Chronicle featured Liu saying teenagers were using speedy WiFi for masturbation, not for doing their homework. The video was later lampooned on the Jimmy Kimmel Live late-night show.
But, this past primary season, Liu’s campaign for governor, was less odd performance art and perhaps more satirical. After the infamous #BBQBetty incident at Lake Merritt this summer that included a women calling the police on a group of black people simply enjoying a barbecue, Liu posted his vision for transforming the lake into a lucrative theme park that rivals the Louvre in Paris.
An over-the-top graphic of Lake Merritt included a giant inflatable water slide, “horsey rides for white people,” and “nice grills for black people.” The graphic sometimes drew him ire on Twitter and Facebook. A Jewish group uninvited Liu for a candidates forum this month for comments they say were anti-semitic.
In a questionnaire reportedly offered by KGO-TV to all Oakland mayoral candidates this fall, and which Liu posted online, he described himself as “a chubby father with a chubby wife, a normal weight son and a chubby daughter.”