Twitter Sued For Defamation By Someone Who Thinks It's Responsible For 'Publishing' Tweets
from the hello-secondary-liability dept
I would have hoped that, by now, most people could understand basic secondary liability issues, such as the difference between a service provider who provides the tools/service for communications and a content creator and/or publisher who actually creates or chooses the content. Unfortunately, when large sums of money are involved, people often have difficultly distinguishing the two. The latest situation involves a guy in Australia, named Joshua Meggitt, who appeared to have a legitimate defamation claim by Australian writer/TV personality Marieke Hardy. On her blog, she accused Meggitt of writing “ranting, hateful” articles about her. She then posted a link to her blog on Twitter, where it got a lot of attention. Hardy and Meggitt have already “settled” the dispute between each other, with a rumored $15,000 changing hands, but Meggitt has now sued Twitter directly claiming that it “published” the tweet by putting it on its front page.
It strikes me that there are a number of (significant) legal problems with this lawsuit. First, perhaps this happened a while ago, back when Twitter did show tweets on its front page, but nowadays it does not. Second, I’d be shocked if anyone really used Twitter’s front page without an account to find links. Instead, it sounds like people who actually followed Hardy saw her tweet in their views from the site — which wouldn’t have anything to do with Twitter making any kind of editorial choice at all. Even if it was back under the (very) old system when Twitter did display some tweets, I’m pretty sure those were just random tweets from the stream. Arguing that Twitter has any real selection choice in those is pretty ridiculous.
Furthermore, it appears from the description in the article that the tweet from Hardy didn’t even name Meggitt. Perhaps it did elsewhere, but the tweet repeated in the Sydney Morning Herald just says:
Her tweet read: ”I name and shame my ‘anonymous’ internet bully. Liberating business! Join me,” with a link to her blog, where she incorrectly named Mr. Meggitt as the author of ”ranting, hateful” articles about her.
In other words, it’s unclear if even the tweet itself should be considered defamatory, rather than the blog post. Linking to a defamatory blog post should never be seen as defamatory itself. Either way, it seems we’re getting even further and further away from any actually defamatory statement. If Twitter somehow is liable for defamatory comments written on a blog because someone then tweets a link to that blog, Twitter is going to become a hell of a lot less useful.
While Meggitt claims that he’s not subject to Twitter’s terms of service, since he doesn’t use it, that’s meaningless. The issue has nothing to do with Twitter’s terms of service. It has to do with who’s the actual liable party and that would be the person who made the defamatory statements. And, from everything that’s been said, it sure likes like Meggitt has already settled the claim with that party…