There will be a day when Twitter users are held accountable for all the terrible and incorrect things they say about others. But it is not this day! This day, a champion named Courtney Love has saved us all from needing "facts" before we tweet about somebody.
And like a liar at a witch trial, she looks good for her age...
Courtney Love got into a beef with somebody, and she took to Twitter to voice her displeasure (as one does). On Twitter, Love said some things about the other person that were manifestly untrue (as one does).
Luckily for Love, this time she wasn't talking smack about Gwen Stefani, so nobody had to make an entire song to mock her. Unfortunately for Love, the person she was beefing with was a lawyer, who promptly accused Love of libel. Libel is "defamation" that is written down. And defamation is like insulting somebody with no evidence who becomes butthurt enough to sue you over it.
Theoretically, you can libel somebody, 140 characters at a time. But nobody has really tried to make the case that they were disparaged over Twitter to the point that they deserve money for the shame of it all in a high profile case.
Nobody until attorney Rhonda Holmes sued Love for $8 million over some tweets where Love suggested Holmes was "bought off" from pursuing a fraud case. As far as anybody can tell, this is a first of its kind case involving Twitter libel, or "Twibel."
But on Friday, Love won the lawsuit. A California jury deliberated for three hours and found that Love did not libel Holmes, even though what she said was untrue. Love argued that she didn't mean to publish the Tweet and she deleted it soon after. The jury found that Love didn't know the Tweet was incorrect when she entered it, which matters in defamation law.
The implications of this lawsuit could be significant. To have a Twitter account is to have the opportunity to say things we "didn't mean to publish" based on absolutely no facts at all. Twitter isn't about facts, it's about feelings, and pretending like we didn't have those feelings when people get angry. Thank God for Courtney Love... this whole thing could have gone a lot differently if it were just any random minor celebrity who nobody takes seriously anymore.
The same rules apply to writing things on Twitter as apply to writing things in a blog post or writing things in a newspaper. And that will remain a scary thought at least until Twitter comes up with a breathalyzer app that locks your account if you blow .3 sheets to the wind.
At least for now, there's no obvious reason to run your Tweets by your lawyer. But be careful when tweeting about lawyers. The lawyer version of a Twitter flame war (seen here) is all fun and games until somebody goes to court.