• 07.28.09

Would You Twitter If Your Tweet Carried a $50,000 Price Tag?

A Twitter-user in Chicago just got hit with a $50,000 defamation lawsuit. What does it mean for the Twittersphere?

We’ve talked about how Twitter can get you fired and how Twitter can help you find a job, but how about how Twitter can land you in a $50,000 lawsuit?


Yeah, Amanda Bonnen didn’t think so either. In May, the Chicago resident tweeted: “@JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay.”

And that’s all it took for Horizon Realty Group to file a defamation lawsuit against her, claiming that the statement damaged the company’s rep. But what if what Bonnen tweeted were true? If there really is mold in her apartment, Horizon Realty should do something about it. And second, how many people could have possibly read this tweet? ChicagoNow reports that Bonnen only had 20 followers (her Twitter account has since been closed).

It may all sound trivial, but the reality is that your tweets are under scrutiny. In December, the National Law Journal reported that Twitter conversations don’t really differ from letters, emails or text messages, calling them “damaging and discoverable.”

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In 2008, a Yelp user faced a defamation lawsuit for posting a poor review of a chiropractor. And just earlier this year, a New York teen who said she was harassed by classmates on Facebook (she said they created a Facebook group that made false claims about her) sued not only her classmates and their parents, but Facebook itself.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which works to defend digital rights, states on its Web site that bloggers (and technically, Twitter is a blog) are entitled to free speech, and “internet bullies shouldn’t use copyright, libel or other claims to chill your legitimate speech.”

We’ll see how this pans out, but in the meantime, be careful what you tweet.

[via ChicagoNow]