As new technologies are invented and used, the law must often play catch-up. This is the case in Chicago, where a woman is being sued for complaining about her landlord to her Twitter audience.
Specifically, the Defendant Amanda wrote:
@JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.
Amanda may have thought she was just Tweeting to her 20 friends who were signed up with her. However, her landlord Horizon Realty saw the complaint and filed one of their own in court, alleging she defamed them and asking for $50,000.00 in damages.
The Complaint states that “Twitter is a free social network on the internet at allows users to send and read messages; the messages are referred to as “Tweets.” Tweets are posts of up to 140 characters and are displayed on the Tweet author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s followers. A person with a Twitter account can make his or her profile page private or public. If the account is public, anybody in the world can view the account holder’s Tweets.”
Horizon Realty asserts that the “moldy” statement is false and defamatory and was published to the entire world, which fulfills the elements necessary to allege defamation.
The law is nowhere near settled on whether a Tweet constitutes a legal defamation. A search revealed no legal precedent on the subject. One sticky question is whether writing on Twitter constitutes “publishing.” Another question is whether a tweet is a form of private conversation between a select group, the equivalent of a spoken conversation that may be heard by third parties or a legal publication similar to taking out an advertisement in the newspaper or making a statement on TV. Obviously, this case also raises the classic “truth is a defense” and “freedom of speech” defenses to lawsuits of this nature.
Who knows how these legal battles will turn out? There are no answers yet, but this case may be the first step in populating the “Twitter” portion of the case books.
If you want to comment on this article, you are now aware that you do so at your own risk! Commentators beware!
-Carlos L. McDade, Esq.