Libel and Twitter…

9 Mar

by Georgina Leggate

 @GeorginaLeggate

Ranting on social networks can be an expensive affair, as Courtney Love found out after she was accused of libelling fashion designer ‘Dawn Simorangkir’, on Twitter. Love used the social networking site to declare Simorangkir a thief, and her tweets launched vicious attacks on the designer saying she was an outright criminal. Having realised she was going to fight a losing battle, Love decided to settle Simorangkir’s libel suit for £265,000 rather than face the judge and jury herself, in court. This case addresses the question many of us need answering…

What amounts to defamation on social sites? And are alleged defamatory remarks, disseminated on social sites, more or less influential than that of similar remarks reported in other areas of the media?

We’ve all been aware of the changes to Facebook’s security policy over the past year. There have been an increasing number of cases reported of unconventional and concerning patterns of behaviour that some users have adopted whilst using the social networking site. This has inevitably sparked debates which then led to Facebooks’ executives to taking the necessary action.

As a Facebook addict and someone who uses it hourly rather than daily, I am aware of the huge number of different ways in which one can take precautionary actions when using Facebook and there is special link to click on, or tab to tap in to, which gives one clear instructional advice on what to do and what not to do when using the site. It also provides alternate information should you want to seek help or advice from somewhere other than the Facebook site.

How then, has the same treatment not been given to the likes of Twitter. As far as I can see, there are no warning signs on the site. There are no notices to let users know that one of their ‘tweets’ could be held against them and depending on the content and context of your tweet, one could in fact be taken to court. It’s a miracle we don’t see more Twitter Libel claims. Those of you, who’s tweets are like mine, few and far between, are less likely to appear before the court, but too often now I wonder how so many people are getting away with such slanderous and defamatory tweets.

Of course like in the Love case, it is the celebrity’s who will be scrutinised more often, they are naturally going to have more followers than the masses. In my research for this blog, I have struggled to find any more than a handful of cases of libel lawsuits with regards to Twitter. We all know that our online lives, however private we want to keep them are public, so why isn’t more being done to protect the users of these sites.

Twitter may seem to many a bit of fun, and arguably, most of the time, it is, but underneath it all  lurks a very important bit of litigation. Social media libel may not be at the forefront of the average tweeters mind, but it is certainly something to consider before you tweet your tweets. In our clicking culture, we rarely take time to think about what we tweet, how we update our status and the consequences of our actions. This blog,

http://thisissammy.blogspot.com/2010/09/social-networking-liable-for-libel.html

… should be read by anyone who wants to use social networks safely, and learn about the intricacies of libel law and how it affects social networks. I have learnt a lot from it and my parting message is…. just because you are angry about something, you are passionate about a policy or you are sick of some celebrity, social networks are there to expose you. Whatever remark you make or tweet you tweet ,be aware that legally you are and will always be responsible for your own actions and more importantly your own words.

Love Case: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/courtney-love-settles-twitter-defamation-case/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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