Twitter and Facebook Dangerous for Your Pocketbook

$430k Love settlement shows tweets can be costly (via Yahoo News)

From Yahoo News

Courtney Love’s settlement of a case sparked by online attacks on a fashion designer show that while Twitter posts may be short, they can also be costly.

The singer has agreed to pay Dawn Simorangkir $430,000, plus interest, to settle a lawsuit the designer filed in March 2009 over comments Love made on Twitter and her MySpace blog.

Many users assume that because the comments or brief or similar to casual conversation, that a lawsuit for libel is unlikely. No, it’s just as likely as for any other media. It’s hard to think of defamation in terms of a newspaper with a 20,000 circulation being similar to a twitter post, but that twitter post could go viral and be seen by 20,000,000 people.

Here’s more from the article.

“People are getting in trouble for Twitter postings on an almost daily basis,” said First Amendment Attorney Doug Mirell, a partner at Loeb and Loeb who did not handle the case.

“The laws controlling what is and isn’t libelous are the same regardless of the medium in which the statements appear,” he said.

From further down in the article –

The fact is that this case shows that the forum upon which you communicate makes no difference in terms of potential legal exposure,” Freedman said. “Disparaging someone on Twitter does not excuse one from liability.”

When you communicate with Twitter or Facebook, pretend you are editorializing in a newspaper because legally, it’s very similar.

James Pilant

“Attacking a brand is like attacking a person” (via The Business Ethics Blog)

“Attacking a brand is like attacking a person.”

So, we can expect Taco Bell to become depressed, suffer anxiety, and need sleeping pills to get rest. Then it will sit up at night staring into the darkness, thinking, “Just a few more sleeping pills and all the pain will go away.” And now, now that it’s too late, we’ll regret the unkind things we said about Taco Bell’s meat content?

Not likely.

I find the idea of corporate personhood difficult to take seriously and then this thing comes along. We are supposed to attribute human like qualities to a brand? What’s the logical end of this? If I drop a bottle of Taco Bell sauce in the supermarket floor, can I be tried for assault? Will it need victim counseling?

Unfortunately and bizarrely, this is a serious matter. The company is staking out a claim that a brand can be defamed in the same sense as a human being. It may be attempting to set up this as a defense but more likely an opportunity for countersuite or future law suits.

Product defamation.

In a world in which the Supreme Court has just discovered that corporate personhood means unlimited political contributions, the idea of “brand” personhood be far behind?

Have you seen one of those web sites entitled (insert company name) How often do you imagine coporate executives and their attorneys are trying to figure out someway to shut them down and then shut down all criticism as illegal or at least something you can sue about?

This all sounds ridiculous, but this is an opening salvo in a new kind of law. It may work. It may not. But I do not think it’s going away.

Please read Chris MacDonald’s more academically nuanced piece on the same subject.

James Pilant

Last week on my Food Ethics Blog, I posed the following question: Fast Food Beef: What Matters? At the heart of that blog posting is a lawsuit that has been filed against Taco Bell, alleging that… …Taco Bell’s “meat mixture”, which it dubs “seasoned beef” contained less than 35 % beef. If these figures are correct, the product would fail to meet minimum requirements, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to be labeled as “beef”. The othe … Read More

via The Business Ethics Blog