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article imageTwitter Faces Its First Libel Suit

By Carol Forsloff     Mar 30, 2009 in Internet
When you're No. 1, you're a target, at least in Twitter's case. A fashion designer is filing a lawsuit against rocker Courtney Love for "menacing and disturbing" comments made against her on Twitter and MySpace.
Courtney Love, who is often doing something interesting to be tops on entertainment pages, allegedly ranted about her fashion designer and posted her criticisms on line. The fashion designer has decided to stick it to the musician with a lawsuit, seeking punitive damages, arguing that the comments have destroyed her reputation and her business.
Dawn Simorangkir declares that Love began a particular angry crusade against her, using Twitter, MySpace and other venues to pronounce quite ugly things about Simorangkir's designs and behavior. Simorangkir maintains that Love referred to her as a “nasty, lying, hosebag thief” with “a history of dealing cocaine” who would be “hunted til your [sic] dead.”
Now name-calling goes on everywhere on the Internet, so no one knows whether this lawsuit will have real legs or not. The issue is proving loss, as most attorneys declare. Defamation on the Internet is becoming what is called a hot-button issue on Internet law. The Internet lends itself to defamation through email, social bookmarking sites, forums, blogs and other places where people can post messages, many of which occurs anonymously. England and Scotland have observed that holding someone responsible must involve the following, which is likely a standard that many jurisdictions would employ in the United States:
"In defamation proceedings a person has a defence if he shows that -
(a) he was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement complained of,
(b) he took reasonable care in relation to its publication, and
(c) he did not know, and had no reason to believe, that what he did caused or contributed to the publication of a defamatory statement."
Such issues often raise questions about the rights of the press when it comes to political figures and what can or cannot be said. It turns out the criticism of officials is often upheld as part of the free speech clause for journalists, given the notion that one of the purposes of free speech is to hold power to account. However, private figures have protection from defamation, so considerations are given by the court. Twitter is part journalism, part network, in that it allows the transfer of information as a service of presenting ideas. It will be interesting to see what comes of this case on several grounds: its test of Internet defamation and secondly its effect on a secondary source when it comes to guilt or innocence in this instance. That could go a long way in determining how much more critical Internet social bookmarking and interactive sites may become.
More about Twitter, Sued, Dawn simorangkir, Courtney love
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