Getting Sued For Twibel or Tweet Once & Destroy*



Every lede for the following story is about 2.5x better than what I could've come up with. So, take it away Ottawa Citizen:

Can you really libel someone in 140 characters or less?

The short answer, you could quickly tweet, is yes. The first libel suit against a Twitter user was launched in March, in the United States.

Daily Telegraph, you wanna wrap up the rest?

It was merely a matter of time: Twitter, the latest social networking phenomenon, appears to have sparked its first libel action. And perhaps inevitably, singer Courtney Love, well known for sounding off online, is at its centre….

According to a libel claim lodged by Simorangkir in Los Angeles Superior Court last Thursday, the widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain has carried out "an obsessive and delusional crusade" of malicious libel against her on Twitter, adding insult on MySpace and other websites.

The designer, who lives in Austin, Texas, also claims that numerous tweets posted by Love on Twitter accuse her of being a "nasty, lying, hosebag thief"; having "a history of dealing cocaine"; having "lost all custody of her child"; and, being guilty of "assault and burglary". The singer adds that the designer would be "hunted til your [sic] dead".

Love then allegedly posted on a fashion site where Ms Simorangkir sells her clothes: "The nastiest lying worst person I have ever known … evil incarnate, vile horrible lying bitch."

Ms Simorangkir is seeking punitive damages, arguing that the comments have destroyed her reputation and her business….

Courtney Love jokes aside, the Canadian article [place Canuck joke here] is actually pretty interesting in regards to the uncharted territory of Internet libel:

While Twitter is new ground, lawsuits related to blogs are on the rise. The New York-based Media Law Resource Center says it is tracking 258 Web-related U.S. lawsuits, a sharp increase from 110 a year ago….The majority of Internet-¬≠related lawsuits are connected to blog postings, says Eric Robinson, a staff lawyer with the Media Law group.

A year ago, blog lawsuits were a novelty, but they have been growing quickly. And so have the resulting awards—one as high as US$12.5-million. "The Internet was the Wild West, but now the sheriffs are coming in," Mr. Robinson says.

Part of the problem with the Internet is you have a lot of amateur gunslingers firing away at targets and they have no idea they could be liable for the damage they inflict, says Robert Cox, president of the New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Media Bloggers Association….

His group has helped establish an insurance plan for bloggers who might not be covered under their existing personal liability polices. Many bloggers who thought they had coverage soon discover that because their blog has revenue it is considered a commercial product and therefore is not covered by their personal liability insurance.

Another problem, Mr. Cox says, is that the insurance industry is realizing it has not built in proper risk models to account for the exposure to major lawsuits.

Read the whole dern thing here, eh.

Another reason bloggers should be careful here. Twitter in the court room here. Contributor Michael W. Lynch on blog post libel here. Follow the Reason staff on Twitter here.

[*A horrible way to reference Hole's song "Use Once And Destroy"]

NEXT: Snappy Answers to Stupid Arguments

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  1. I’ll be damned…Courtney Love is Gollum.

  2. Warty — A+

    Reason — But of course you can libel someone with a tweet. Why would anyone doubt that?

  3. I don’t know how I feel about Courtney Love libeling someone.

    On the one hand, who cares. On the other hand, what kind of raging asshole do you need to be for Courtney Love to think your bad?

  4. So, if I say Courtney Love is responsible for Cobain’s death, is that libel? I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t kill themselves if they woke up next to that scary bitch?

  5. Can it really be libel if no one gives a shit what someone said? I mean, I could give two shits what Courtney Love thinks about anything or anyone, so if that’s true for the majority of humanity, can it really damage this person’s reputation?

  6. TAO-

    I know you are about to take your first year law school exams. Suggestion: Get into libel law. You will certainly have work!

    Pro Lib-

    How abot you? Does your practice include libel cases?

  7. Nick-

    Kind of like a take off on Churchill and Lady Astor?

  8. It is im-fucking-possible to libel Courtney Love.

  9. *I was thinking “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges

    Look out honey, cause I’m using technology!

  10. So, if I say Courtney Love is responsible for Cobain’s death, is that libel? I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t kill themselves if they woke up next to that scary bitch?


    Then….probably not

    She used to be really hot back in the pre- and for several years post- Straight To Hell period.

  11. You normally have to show damages for a libel claim. (I think in most states there are still some narrow types of statements for which you don’t need to show damages to have a claim, but even then, if you can’t show damages, you’re likely to recover very little.)

    So, basically, if no one takes anything the defendant says seriously, a libel claim should fail in most situations.

  12. Sorry #, I never ever thought Courtney Love was hot, and definitely not really hot. This is not a revisionist history either. She always scared me and not in a positive way.

  13. She used to be really hot back in the pre- and for several years post- Straight To Hell period.

    [citation needed]

  14. People bring libel suits all the time, and most fail. How is this different than suing a gossip columnist in a print paper for libel?

    The real lesson to be learned here is to never associate with Courtney Love, ever.

  15. Damn Nick.

    Oh, and Straight to Hell sucked, too. Surprisingly, because Alex Cox can write. I blame Dick Rude.

  16. Isn’t the just the presence of Courtney Love libelous enough?

  17. That picture of Ms. Love is my Anti-Drug(tm)

  18. libertymike,

    Not my area. I’m a corporate guy.

  19. Yeah, it’s not my area either. I’m drawing on the fumes of bar prep that remain in my system.

  20. I care for neither Twitter nor Tweets, but Jay Bennett is suing Jeff Tweedy.


  21. Kurt, you shot the wrong Cobain……..

    So sayeth my buddy the Col

  22. If I think tweeting sounds like something guys do in a gay bar does that make me a twitterphobe?

  23. Another thing to note is that lawsuits are part of the public record, in more ways than one.

  24. “nasty, lying, hosebag thief”

    Courtney Love so wants to be Canadian. Ya hoser!

  25. OLS-

    Can’t argue with that.

  26. Pro Lib-

    You are in the Tampa area? Next week, I am being deposed in Sarasota in a juicy case with a plethora of corporate governance issues.

  27. Can it really be libel if no one gives a shit what someone said?

    Yeah, it can still be libel, but the question then is whether the plaintiff has incurred any damages. She’ll have to show evidence that she suffered a loss of income or something like that as a result of the libel.


  28. It only takes ten (10) words:

    She did it (and yes I really think she did).

  29. Newspapers make sure to write adjectives like “alleged” to avoid libel suits. Bloggers will just have to do the same. There’s no reason why bloggers should be treated differently from news reporters. We want the same exact rights that reporters have, so we should accept the same exact responsibilities.

  30. How abot you?

  31. “Another thing to note is that lawsuits are part of the public record, in more ways than one.”

    Wow! The Lone Jackoff has discovered Google. Of course he fails to understand how it works.

    STFU Lone Jackoff!

    And now, I shall close with a song:

    She said, “Hello country bumpkin”
    “Put yer corncob in my pumpkin”
    “I’ve seen some cobs but, man, you’re somethin'”
    “Where’d ya come from, country bumpkin?”

  32. I’d worry that following Courtney Love’s Twitter stream could lead to catching a nasty social disease.

  33. Damn, I may have to tone down the vitriol and personal attacks online. Where’s the fun in that?

  34. Libel laws vary from state to state on what must be proved to collect damages. In some states, you don’t have to show damage if the false statement accused you of a crime.

    Lesson from the case: if you wish to make personal attacks, stick to phrases that don’t have provable factual meanings.

    IOW, calling Courtney Love “a walking case for retroactive abortion” or “a pustulent boil on the buttocks of humanity” is fine; calling her “a filthy cokehead who should imitate Kurt and leave the world a better place” is fine because it’s a widely known and proven fact that she used cocaine; calling her a child molester would not be fine, because as far as we know, it’s not true.

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