Chicagoan sued for defamation based on tweet

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by mkrishnan, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #1
    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chi...-one-chicago-womans-tweet-cost-her-50000.html

    Fascinating.
     
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #2
    I'd like to see how this plays out. A good point was brought up about what a "tweet" is anyway and can it be considered a conversation among friends in a public "room" or is it publishing? If the latter then the suit sticks but then where does it end? Can I not come here and express my utter dissatisfaction with the Honda dealer that took forever to change the oil on my car?

    This should probably be the first and will probably become case law at the very least I think.
     
  3. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #3
    Yeah, if it goes to trial I think it has the potential to be really useful in terms of precedent. Maybe ACLU or EFF or someone will pick it up. Also I wonder if there are a lot of juicy details not publicly available -- particularly whether there's some compelling evidence that the allegation by this tenant was false or otherwise deceptive.
     
  4. QCassidy352 macrumors G3

    QCassidy352

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    #4
    Seems like publishing to me. I mean, unless she can and does limit who can follow her tweets (I don't use twitter so I don't know these things).

    But remember, the bar for proving defamation is still enormously high. Even assuming that posting to MR counts as "publication," for your Honda dealer to sue you, they'd have to prove that your post was false, that you knew it to be false, and that it harmed the dealer in some way (probably reputation).

    Remember - truth is always a defense to a charge of defamation. If the honda dealer in fact took forever to change your oil then you can scream it from the rooftops and even if that ruins their entire business you're fine.

    And then we get in to whether a commentary on a dealership is a "matter of public interest" or the dealership itself is a "public figure." I'm not sure how that would play with respect to a corporation, but my guess is you'd be covered under "matter of public concern" even if all of the elements above were met.
     
  5. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #5
    This is why I'm surprised the property management firm would press the lawsuit, especially for such a small amount of money.
     
  6. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #6
    Only 20 people got the tweet; that's worldwide?:confused: Small world.:rolleyes:

    I, for one, support Ms Bonnen's right to express her disatisfaction with any company. If she loses this suit, we should all be wary of what we post on ANY internet forum.:mad: I don't want M$ coming after me for saying Windows stinks.
     
  7. TJRiver macrumors 6502

    TJRiver

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    Jan 14, 2009
    #7
    Publication involves the publication of the defamatory statement to one recipient. The number of recipients only has to do with the amount of damages. One or a million, if the statement is defamatory, it is actionable.

    While i believe the management company is behaving like a spoiled child (e.g. this stupid gal's opinions got world wide attention vs. a few of her friends had this debacle not been pursued), the lesson is the same, mind your Ps and Qs out there folks. There is nothing magic about the web that makes it a free for all. Defame other folks at your own peril.
     
  8. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #8
    Also, if it's like most Twitter accounts it's open to the public. Not only could anyone searching for related keywords find it, but in some Twitter apps (e.g. Twinkle), there's a popular feature to see all the twitter activity in a defined radius around your current location -- and people use it, so it would go out to all of the Chicagoans on Twitter.

    As far as defamation goes, what Bonnen said is different from what you said -- your statement is purely a value judgment. I might agree or disagree, but no one can prove it's false. If you posted that Microsoft diverts money from its advertising revenues to Lashkar-e-Taiba or that Windows 7 permanently modifies your computer to prevent you from installing Linux on it, then... those kinds of claims would be categorically different fro "Windows stinks." And wouldn't most people agree that those claims are irresponsible?

    Again, I'm really surprised there's a suit, but if the mgmt company can make good on their claim and this is provably false, she's inciting panic in other people who live in properties owned by that agency. They probably have already started panicking in what might be purely cases where there is no risk. Even if usually minor, that panic is actually physically bad for them. From that standpoint, if this kind of allegation more particularly is known false by this Bonnen person, then what she did has at least a small aspect of pulling a fire alarm in a theater when there is no fire (which is enough more serious to be a crime).
     
  9. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #9
    I'm curious to find out how the management company even found out. I don't know many people who follow me on twitter that would also become my landlord anytime soon.
     
  10. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #10
    I have seen property agencies on Twitter, but my first guess would be, a la my above scenario, someone else already panicked and called them saying they found out on Twitter that they have mold in their apartment....

    In fairness to hmmm, I don't know who or which, apparently there is more:

    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chi...-lawsuit-against-horizon-realty-revealed.html

    Both the property group's press release and the woman's preious complaint are available via link as PDF.

    The Horizon claim includes a print-out copy of the Twitter account showing the tweet in question and indicates that the account was public (per my above note) at the time of posting, but doesn't elaborate on how the claim is known to be false.

    The Bonnen suit seems to have to deal with payment of interest on security deposit (renters there are required to place security deposits in interest bearing accounts and accrue interest on behalf of the tennant) and also porch safety disclosures, so if the Horizon suit is retaliatory, it doesn't seem related topically to the original suit.
     
  11. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    Jun 27, 2007
    #11
    This was on cnn a few weeks ago. Most people would agree that she was speaking to a small audience.

    It's just silly because now no one would want to live there, because that landlord might sue the tenants for silly things. What's next? The landlord will tap the phones?

    There are lots of people who low IQ, MAYBE some work at that place. And I said Maybe.
     
  12. MacVixen macrumors 6502

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    Santa Cruz, CA
    #12
    I'm confused as to where the defamation occurred. Her tweet was as follows:

    Where is the defamation? That she is claiming the apartment is moldy? If anything she appears to be (sarcastically) agreeing with Horizon.

    Seems like "Windows stinks!" tweet would be more defamatory than this one getting this poor gal sued. :confused:
     
  13. remmy macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    Wouldn't the fact that it is personal opinion and a difference of opinion mean that she should be okay?
     
  14. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

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    May 19, 2002
    #14
    After these types of lawsuits, I amended my profile disclaimer on MacRumors years ago.

    Warning: It's all an opinion based on my own twisted version of reality.

    I'm not stating facts, just my opinion. Which may differ from the truth.

    If they decide to sue me over my opinions, all they are doing is helping prove to me they are asshats.
     
  15. Love macrumors 68000

    Love

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    #15
    I'm updating my Facebook status to say Telus sucks and see what happens.
     
  16. Randman macrumors 65816

    Randman

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    #16
    The ironic thing is the company is getting far worse publicity from the frivolous suit than anything someone could say on Twitter.
     
  17. iheijoushin macrumors newbie

    iheijoushin

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    Boston, MA
    #17
    This is sort of off-topic. But I am nonetheless interested:

    Have Corporations always had all the rights of an individual person? (I.E are considered an identity, citizen and can litigate against individuals using laws intended to protect individual citizens?)

    Has this always been the case? This may be the case in most countries, but I know in most other countries - there are legal limits to Corporations going after individuals.

    Hmm, curious.
     
  18. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    Chicago, Illinois
    #18
    I know I'd never rent from them.
     
  19. P-Worm macrumors 68020

    P-Worm

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    Salt Lake City, UT
    #19
    I believe so. Legally corporations are considered people.

    P-Worm
     
  20. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    Chicago, Illinois
    #20
    Mkrishnan- let us know us know when you hear more.
     
  21. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #21
    Doesn't seem to have resurfaced in the news aside from tangential mentions to the previous information... here's another interesting, case, loosely related, though:

    http://www.crn.com/it-channel/219400684;jsessionid=Q5FYVREJCEQZ1QE1GHRSKH4ATMY32JVN

    Here the issue seems to be more whether the person has a claim to anonymity -- it seems really unlikely this model, whoever she is, could get damages for being called a ho on the internet... (or else Paris Hilton is probably capable of suing for trillions of dollars from roflrazzi pics alone. :D )
     
  22. Counterfit macrumors G3

    Counterfit

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    #22
    No she isn't. It's not defamation if it's true.
     
  23. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2006
    #23
    If the statement is presented as a fact and is actually false and the company suffered some injury (I don't believe it even has to be economic harm) because of that false statement then it is defamation. I think its pretty clear that she made a statement of fact, essentially: my apartment has mold, I sleep in it, and Horizon Realty thinks it is ok. If, in fact, her apartment did not have mold in it then the company might be able to prove libel. You also have to remember that publishing in a legal sense isn't really the same as in a general sense; all publishing in a legal sense means is that the statement of defamation is communicated to persons other than the defamed party.

    "Windows stinks" isn't a statement of fact, it is a statement of opinion that is protected under the First Amendment; statements of false fact that cause injury are not protected under the First Amendment.
     
  24. mkrishnan thread starter Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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  25. QCassidy352 macrumors G3

    QCassidy352

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    Bay Area
    #25
    Corporations don't have all the rights of individuals, but they do have a good number of them. First example that comes to mind - a corporation has no 2nd amendmnet rights.

    Not to mention that she's a public figure, so she'd have to prove "actual malice" in addition to everything else.
     

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