Chicago’s Amanda Bonnen had become disgruntled with her landlord, the Horizon Group management company over the condition of her apartment. She alleged that her apartment was infected with mold and told the world about it when she tweeted such on her Twitter account. She alleged that the management company told her that sleeping in the moldy apartment was okay.
The management company sued her.
Is her Tweet merely an opinion and, therefore, defensible under law? Who knows? Some courts have ruled that opinion statements can be defamatory if they are based upon false and defamatory facts. In the end, this will probably shake out and be much ado about nothing.
However, it does raise the specter of consequences for social media. Singer (and widow of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain) Courtney Love was recently sued over Tweets that referenced a certain clothing designer. Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and a lawyer himself, instituted litigation against someone who opened a Twitter account in his name. Dallas Maverick’s owner, Mark Cuban was fined $25,000 by the league for a Tweet which impugned the integrity of the referee at the Maverick-Nuggets game. Just this week, a NFL football player was fined by his team for Tweets that he issued pertaining to the quality of food at training camp.
Living in a day and age when people think little of their actions and refuse to take responsibility when they’ve done something wrong, it seems only reasonable that there will be a rise in Twitter Torts. What affect will that have upon social media? Will people actually begin to censor themselves? Can discretion be far around the corner?
My prediction is that we will see a rise of Twitter Torts and more public outrage about them before people begin to think about what they Tweet before they Tweet.