Science & Technology

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"]