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Famous Twitter Troll James Woods Asks Service for Info on Less-Famous Twitter Troll

The great actor - and outspoken Obama critic - takes on the First Amendment.

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Videodrome

Over the weekend, The Hollywood Reporter published a story about actor James Woods' attempt to force Twitter to divulge information about a user known as "Abe List." List has at various points called the Ghosts of Mississippi, Videodrome, and Family Guy actor a "notorious coke fiend and registered sex offender," among other things.

Woods is suing List and another user for defamation and seeking $10 million for damages, says The Hollywood Reporter. His people are asking Twitter for information about the users' accounts, but the social-media site is not playing ball:

"The speech at issue appears to be opinion and hyperbole rather than a statement of fact," wrote [Twitter lawyer Ryan] Mrazik. "Further, the target of the speech is a public figure who purposefully injects himself into public controversies, and there has been no showing of actual malice. Attempts to unmask anonymous online speakers in the absence of a prima facie defamation claim are improper and would chill the First Amendment rights of speakers who use Twitter's platform to express their thoughts and ideas instantly and publicly, without barriers."

As a fan of Woods' acting (including the supremely underappreciated Best Seller) and a person interested in publicly right-wing celebrities, I follow Woods on Twitter. He's @realjameswoods and I highly recommend checking out his feed. It's filled with SMH messages about all the evils that Barack Obama is unleashing (The Daily Beast has dubbed him the president's "biggest Twitter troll") and hilariously dyspeptic and nasty exchanges with other Twitter users. Woods spends a fair amount of time extolling the virtues of limited government and the Constitution, so it's kind of weird to see him using the courts to fight back against nasty comments directed his way. He gives as good as he gets, and he gives and gets a lot. Generally speaking, that's how it should be, right?

Abe List—whoever that is—is being represented by Ken White, the proprietor of the excellent Popehat legal blog. Regular readers will recognize White as the person who pierced the veil of secrecy surrounding Reason's run-in with a federal subpoena asking for commenter information.

Here's the Reporter on White's involvement:

With nods to Woods' own postings ("Put down your crack pipe," Woods once tweeted to a follower; "I wouldn't want you to spend your precious crack allowance being enlightened," the actor wrote to another), White calls out the plaintiff for "routinely" employing insults like "clown" and "scum."

"But Plaintiff apparently believes that while he can say that sort of thing to others, others cannot say it to him," White adds.

The brief goes on to argue that Twitter is a platform known for hyperbole, and that Woods himself is "a well-known part of Twitter's culture of political hyperbole." He cites a Daily Beast story that called him "Obama's biggest Twitter troll" and writes that "perhaps because he's so consistently combative, or perhaps because he's played the role of drug users in his movie career, 'James Woods is on cocaine' has become a Twitter in-joke or meme."

Read the whole story, which includes links to White's filing in the case that is itself worth a look-see. Recall that in his writing on Reason's legal issues, White stressed that hyperbole and seemingly threatening language isn't enough to trigger legal action or define a threat. Context is king, White stressed in a way that would make any professor of literature smile.

Follow Popehat on Twitter here. You'll be glad you did. 

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  1. If he’s not a notorious coke fiend, and is not a registered sex offender, then statements to that effect would be libel, no? Any lawyer types want to weigh in?

    1. Of course not. This isn’t England.

      1. I’m not so sure, Abe List’s tweet seems to meet these criteria. But then again, I’m not a lawyer so maybe I’m missing something.

        1. That site is feeding you a load of bullshit, because by their definitions, common non-libelous commentary would be classed as such. The issue at hand is that there are No Actual Damages and the statements were Mere Vulgar Abuse, both against an undisputed public figure. Woods loses in a US court.

            1. Accusations of sexual misconduct are defamation/libel per se (ie “always” libel regardless of context), as well as accusations of a crime. However, Woods needs to be able to prove that the accusations led to Actual Damages (money Woods lost, or costs Woods incurred; such that they are proximate-ly related to and caused by the libelous statement), exactly like UnCivilServant above stated.

              Woods also has to prove that Abe “knowingly and maliciously published content to a third party that was false.” There are also “clearly ridiculous/untrue statements” protections, in which a court would have to weigh and decide upon the statements.

              In short; Abe likely perpetrated libel, Woods can’t win because it’s nearly impossible to prove harm and therefore present a remedy that is within the power of the court to grant.

              E.g.: If Woods was a Diapers spokesman, and he lost his contract because of child abuse allegations, Woods would have a recovery option available.

              1. Hustler is old law, and easy to get around. Heck, where allegations of reputational harm are involved, even prosecutors can get involved, as New York’s highest court has made clear. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire (and criminal troll) case at:

                http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

                On the other hand, Ken White took on an easy case, just like the conservative “free speech advocate” Eugene Volokh at UCLA. I think one can safely bet that neither of them would go out on the limb and claim that disseminating “confessions” in the “name” of university presidents (a common practice on Twitter) is a form of hyperbole.

    2. I believe there are requirements in US law with regards to actual malace and damages.

    3. You’re lighting the Bo signal this early in the morning? You’re despicable. And we all know you’re a notorious coke fiend and a registered sex offender.

      Libel doesn’t merely consist of making untrue statements about someone. There has to be intent and there has to be a reasonable person standard and a totality of circumstances. If George Will in a column referred to James Woods as a well-known CFARSO, Woods would be able to satisfy the requirement that a reasonable person would accept that George Will was being totally serious, but he would still have to prove that Will knew or easily could have known (reckless disregard for the truth) the statement was not true AND that Will made the statement specifically to damage Woods’ reputation. It’s an extremely high bar to hurdle. Will can claim he didn’t know the statement was untrue or that the statement was made merely as an example of hyperbole.

      1. Oh shit, this is sort of Bo bait, isn’t it? I apologize in advance to everyone if he shits up the thread.

        1. Just call him a virgin. He’ll go apeshit and everyone can have a good laugh and go about their day.

          1. He seemed pretty calm the last time I saw you guys embarrass yourselves like that.

      2. To clarify: Woods has the high bar of arguing that reasonable people would take this guy’s statement as the truth, when any reasonable person on Twitter knows everybody talks shit on Twitter and taking an uncited Twitter statement as true is presumptive proof of one not being a reasonable person. (There’s a line for the mental health evaluation portion of the background check for purchasing a firearm: Do you have a Twitter account? Do you use it? No guns for you, you halfwit.)

    4. Definitely not libel because of context. The whole Twitter account was a massive troll whom no one would have believed was serious.

  2. And follow Popehat on Twitter here. You’ll be glad you did.

    I’m not giving Twitter my information, they might give it to the government, or worse, James Woods.

    1. They might even give it to James Woods on crack.

      1. Would they put a thumb drive on a bed of crack cocaine crystals before serving it up like a gormet appetizer?

  3. Woods is one of the few guys in Hollyweird with a brain. Like me, he had Block Yomomma pegged early on.

    He was also smart and observant enough to figure out something was wrong when some of the 9/11 scumbags were conducting their dry run on the flight he happened to be on. He reported the dudes to our worthless, incompetent government, which of course completely ignored him, and the rest is history.

    1. ooh, piece of candy.

    2. ooh, piece of candy.

    3. Woods is one of the few guys in Hollyweird with a brain. Like me, he had Block Yomomma pegged early on.

      See, the problem is latter sentence destroys an credibility of the former.

  4. We fuck goats according to the caballero of free flowing utterance. I have never fucked a goat, never will, and yet White, in my humble perlustration, remains a viable, albeit acidic, rainbow of super-glittery amaze over a land crawling with ultra-sensitive adult infants.

    1. *slow claps in awe*

    2. Good morning Agile. It is a bit early for that isn’t it? Take it easy man, we want you around for as long as possible.

      1. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

        1. Unless you’ve redesigned the bulb to expend less energy was waste heat.

          1. Does Agile strike you as the STEM type?

            1. I can’t tell, I muted him after he spammed a more interesting thread with gibberish.

    3. I have never fucked a goat, never will,

      You say that now, but once the acid kicks in……

  5. That picture of Woods up top is just exactly how I look when I’m fixin’ to log on to Reason.com and start schoolin’ motherfuckers in the comments section. Except I’m usually sweatier. And totally not on coke. And I’ll fuckin’ shoot and sue anybody who says otherwise.

  6. True Believer is an excellant Wood’s film.

  7. It is one thing to express an opinion; James Woods is a dumb ass or James Woods is a terrible actor. It is quite another to express an objective fact about someone. That if it is derrogatory and not true is slander.

    I would have to read all of the tweets but I don’t see how saying “notorious coke fiend and registered sex offender,” is hyperbole and not a factual statement, unless there was a lot of context around it that made it an obvious joke. Maybe there was but I doubt it.

  8. “Abe List?whoever that is?is being represented by Ken White

    …Whom I have heard from reliable sources is a notorious scofflaw and a heavy coke drinker

  9. A movie i don’t know if anyone actually saw…. as I think it was a made-for-TV type thing…

    Citizen Cohn?

    biopic of genuine freakshow Roy Cohn, Sen. Joe McCarthy’s hatchet-man/chief council

    It was a look at the underbelly of DC politics at its most shamelessly disgusting (in other words, “the status quo”)

    Woods seemed to excel when he was playing “Heavy Duty Assholes” (see: Salvador) Typecast? regardless…. i think he should have been nominated for something for that movie because he carries it almost solo from start to finish…and actually makes you sympathetic for one of the worst people you have ever seen on screen.

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