Posts Tagged ‘twitter defamation’
Rock star Courtney Love has settled the lawsuit brought against her by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, aka the “Bourdoir Queen”, after claiming that Love defamed her in a serious of messages sent via Twitter and Love’s MySpace profile.
The cost? $430,000. I’m not quite sure how that works out per tweet, but it’s reassuringly expensive.
There are bigger repercussions here for everybody on Twitter – not just celebrities – as defamation has long been an issue (and one that I have repeatedly highlighted).
As Reuters explains:
The settlement ends a case that was watched as closely for the unique legal issues in play as the often-erratic behavior of the defendant. Simorangkir, who became embroiled in a dispute with Love over a $4000 payment for clothing, accused the Hole frontwoman of ruining her business with a series of allegedly defamatory tweets posted during a 20 minute rant in 2009. The trial, which was originally scheduled for late January but was postponed when the parties began talking settlement, would have been the first high-profile courtroom showdown over what constitutes defamation on Twitter.
Love argued that her rantings were merely an expression of opinion and that Simorangkir could not prove how they damaged her. The fashion designer, on the other hand, pointed to Love’s influence as an entertainer and the power of social media to disseminate damaging comments, including that Simorangkir was an “asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief.”
“The amount of the settlement says it all,” Simorangkir attorney Bryan Freedman told The Hollywood Reporter. “Her reprehensible defamatory comments were completely false and $430,000 is quite a significant way to say I am sorry. One would hope that, given this disaster, restraint of pen, tongue and tweet would guide Ms. Love’s future conduct.”
Love attorney James Janowitz said he was pleased with the deal. “Because of the extended payout it’s a modest settlement,” Janowitz added, noting that Simorangkir had asked for “vastly more” in discussions. “They got out with an amount that left them bragging rights but nothing else.”
Love is no longer active on Twitter, having quit the network after ‘accidentally‘ sending explicit photographs of herself to all of her followers, instead of her boyfriend as intended. Whether she’ll return now that the case is over is unclear, but for the sake of her health – mental and financial – staying away might be for the best.
Interesting piece over at the official Twitter blog about how they manage freedom of expression on the network (i.e., they don’t):
The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is both a practical and ethical belief. On a practical level, we simply cannot review all one hundred million-plus Tweets created and subsequently delivered every day. From an ethical perspective, almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.
Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose.
Twitter has policy for what you’re allowed to do with your profile (see here for details), but as I’ve written before (over 18 months ago) they don’t seem to have published (or act upon) anything that deals with defamation. The upcoming lawsuit involving Courtney Love will likely expose this as a gaping hole on the network.
Let’s not forget that the vast majority of tweets are indexed on the major search engines, too, and therefore cross well beyond Twitter’s 200 million (ish) users and are, potentially, out there forever.
My guess? It might take another couple of celebrity lawsuits, but pretty soon that official Twitter defamation policy will be in place.
All of which begs the question – should a Twitter abuse team be enabled with the authority to remove tweets that cross a predetermined line? Or maybe we need a system where the users police themselves, perhaps with a variation on the +/- scoring mechanism used by many social bookmarking sites. If a given tweet breaches a negative threshold (or somebody complains directly) then Twitter’s abuse team steps in to investigate.
This isn’t about celebrities – they’ll have lawyers in place to handle this stuff, and you have to take a lot of it with a pinch in this PR-crazy world. Lots of ‘normal’ people stand to get hurt by baseless allegation and libel. I’m a huge believer in freedom of speech, but only if somebody is looking out for the little guy. I’m not convinced Twitter is doing enough in this area, and saying that they don’t have time to go through all the tweets sounds like an excuse, and isn’t really the point. Set up that abuse team and install a system where users can police themselves and let that become your filter. It’s a fine line, of course, but any community by definitionÂ needs to have some limits in place.
What say you?
Cyber-bullying takes many forms. StopCyberbullying.org describes it as:
When a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
A study by the National Crime Prevention Council suggested that cyber-bullying affects almost half of all American teenagers. But it’s not just children who are at risk. Because it’s so easy to register an account on Twitter (and to do so anonymously), it’s also very easy to use that account for malice.
This would include attempting to hurt or embarrass another individual by:
- Sending provocative images
- Making overtly sexual remarks
- The use of hate speech or racism
- Making threats
- Disclosing personal information
- Faking or sharing images without consent
Unfortunately, Twitter’s abuse policy is pretty lacking. Their TOS do not directly address abuse, but the official Twitter rules have a specific section for harassment and violent threats. What the organisation needs is a designated @abuse account, and ideally a checks and balances system for registration.
If you feel you are being bullied or victimised by another individual on Twitter, there are some steps you can take.
- Block the account. This won’t prevent them from maintaining their behavioural pattern, but at least you won’t have to see it.
- Report the user to Twitter via a help ticket. Be thorough, and include examples linking back to specific tweets where possible.
- Consider sending a tweet to @delibus and @safety reporting the user
- Make a backup of all abusive tweets using your favourite image software (i.e., Photoshop) as things can be easily removed by the other user. Your backup won’t be proof alone, but Twitter should be able to match-up your records with their own, even if the tweets have been deleted.
- Highlight the abuse to somebody else that you trust. This person can later function as a witness.
While not reporting abuse in the hope that it will eventually ‘go away’ is not the best course of action, completely ignoring the abuser is an excellent choice. By not feeding the trolls, you can prevent an attacker from getting the things they typically desire, such as validation, a larger audience and even confirmation of the things they are saying. It also helps to reduce the chances of anything becoming public, primarily because it doesn’t become part of your own Twitter timeline.
That said, there can also be some merit in exposing the person publically on Twitter. This is not always ideal, certainly when your personal information has been exposed, but in some instances it can lead to an immediate end to the abuse, as well as providing a warning to others within your network.
Of course, even if the abuse stops, either because the other user gives up or Twitter suspends their account, thisÂ doesn’tÂ prevent them immediately opening up another profile and starting over. If this happens, and until Twitter radically improves their blocking and safety measures, your only option may be to consider protecting your status updates. While this puts the social part of social media somewhat in jeopardy, this is a realistic solution if you wish to maintain a strong level of privacy on Twitter.