The burgeoning Twitter libel defense industry was dealt a blow recently when the infamous Twitter defamation lawsuit was dismissed. Apparently, it is quite difficult to craft a Tweet that fits the legal requirements for defamation in this country.
The dispute between the Twitterer and her property management company began over a disagreement about whether or not there was mold in her apartment. The Twitter portion of the fight started when the apartment dweller tweeted the following, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
From Chicago Breaking News:
One of Bonnen’s lawyers said this morning the judge dismissed the case on the grounds that the tweet itself was too vague to fit the legal elements required to prove a libel case.
The tweet, said Leslie Ann Reis, “could be innocently construed. It could be construed as her opinion.”
“It mentioned Horizon Realty but it never specified whether it referred to Chicago or Illinois and knowing that Twitter is international, that could pertain to any company that uses the name Horizon,” said Reis, who is director of the Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law at John Marshall Law School.
That, she said, runs afoul of one of the elements required in proving a libel, that the plaintiff show the defendant made a false statement specifically about the plaintiff. Another requirement is that the statement be published — which it was, via Twitter — but the third element asks the plaintiff to prove actual harm from the statement.
While the publication channel was novel, the legal grounding was not. “This was not a case about Twitter. This was a case about defamation. … The fact of the matter is that you have to meet all those elements” to prove libel, Reis said.
Twitter apartment mold libel suit dismissed [Chicago Breaking News] (Thanks, Leah!)