Writer Claims Libel, Copyright Infringement When Screencap Of Her Tweet Is Used In An Online Article
from the not-the-way-this-works dept
A person can undo the damage of a particularly stupid assertion by acting quickly and contritely. Too bad far too many people opt for making the situation much, much worse.
David Paxton included a screenshot of Forbes contributor Frances Coppola touting her own personal conspiracy theory about the rash of sexual assaults by immigrants in Cologne, Germany, in his article for Quillette.
According to Coppola's hot take, the assaults were apparently some sort of anti-immigration false flag operation.
"I suspect anti-immigration ppl of organising the Cologne sex crimes. Fastest way of getting borders closed."Coppola has since deleted the tweet and apologized at length for it, but her first few responses were less useful. Paxton's blog post on the subject notes that his use of her tweet was met with a handful of increasingly dubious legal threats.
The first was to claim his direct quote (via screenshot) of her tweet was libelous.
remove the section about me or face libel charges.This line of thinking continued for a few more tweets, with Coppola insisting that taking her tweet out of context (it really wasn't -- see here) was "defamatory," as was Paxton's opinion that the contents of the tweet were "stupid" and "insane."
She then claimed the tweet was "satire" and was being misread by everyone (except, apparently, the other party in the original Twitter conversation, who gave no indication that he felt her tweet was some sort of joke). She claimed this despite espousing similar sentiments throughout the rest of the conversation ("I think we will find indigenous people were paid to do it to stir up hatred of refugees").
With the vague threat of a libel lawsuit still hanging in the air, Coppola moved on to another popular "MUTE" button: IP law.
@aleprechaunist @CanYouFlyBobby has deliberately quoted a tweet screen scraped without my permission from my personal Twitter account +There's nothing "personal" about a Twitter account. Any tweet viewable by the public can be screencapped or quoted without permission of the account owner. If a Twitter account holder doesn't care to have their tweets quoted or posted elsewhere in any form, they can always lock their account, making it only viewable by their followers. Coppola's account was public then and -- after briefly taking it private -- it is public once again.
Other imaginary rights were touted during Coppola's dispute with Paxton.
@CanYouFlyBobby You didn't contact me, you didn't research context & provenance, you used derogatory terms and didn't offer right of reply.In summation: my feelings were hurt by what you said, and you didn't give me a chance to head this off by giving me the "right" to forbid you from using my tweet in your Quillette post.
There is no "right of reply" and even if there was, she had plenty of chances to reply with comments on both Paxton's Quillette post and his blog, as well as in her own tweets and long explanatory post at her own site.
Her response to Paxton's "misuse" of her "out of context" tweet notes the tweet was stupid, as were her initial responses.
I have to straighten something out.Had this been her response from the beginning, it never would have reached the point of her having to write a full blog post about the backlash she triggered. Apologies are nice but Coppola is now Yet Another Cautionary Tale about the right way to respond to criticism.The original post that set this all off (Coppola's tweet was preceded by Paxton stating she "writes cogently and intelligently about economics") was far from harsh.
On 7th January, I made a remark on Twitter which with hindsight was - unwise. Well, ok, it was worse than unwise, it was stupid. I did not think about the consequences. It never occurred to me that issuing that tweet would lead to three weeks of sustained and vicious personal abuse.
He had used the tweet as an example of temporary "insanity" in a normally rational person caused by a highly emotive event. Had I been thinking straight, I would have seen that this was what he meant. But I'm not thinking straight. I took it as yet another personal attack - an attempt to stir up the whole tweetstorm all over again. I told him to take down the section referring to me or face libel charges.
That was both unfair to him and very foolish. There followed an unpleasant argument on Twitter in which I tried again to explain what the purpose of the original tweet was and he insisted that I did not mean that - all of it watched by a huge crowd who were mostly not on my side. It achieved precisely the opposite of what I wanted: not only did the blogger refuse to amend the piece, the piece ended up being circulated far more widely than it probably would have been, and a new tweetstorm developed, this time expressing outrage at my allegation of libel.
My attempt to resolve the situation by leaving a comment on his post and retweeting it myself also appears to have backfired, though it was intended as something of a climbdown. The blogger has now written a very angry post about me. I have to say that although the criticism he levels at me in this post is harsh, it is deserved. I have handled this very badly indeed and am genuinely sorry about the mess I have made. I have left a comment on that post apologising for accusing him of libel.
Coppola's tweet was presented as short-term "insanity" -- the kind that blows over once someone starts thinking about issues, rather than simply reacting to them. Coppola's response to Paxton ignored all of the helpful context and focused on the word "insanity." Had she simply moved on, the "sustained abuse" would have been over in a matter of days, rather than "three weeks."
The problem with being Yet Another Cautionary Tale is that the internet is full of them. The foreseeable consequences of reacting to criticism (especially very mild criticism) with baseless legal threats and clueless assertions about nonexistent rights are exactly that: foreseeable. And yet, it's not as though the flow of cautionary tales has slowed. There's always another one right around the corner.
And it's not as though this is only perpetrated by "stupid" people. Intelligent people react badly to criticism as well and make situations exponentially worse by shouting "libel" or "copyright infringement" when they should -- and possibly do -- know better. Even worse are those who can afford to pay a lawyer to espouse their stupidity on scary-looking letterhead, leading to people who are wholly in the right backing down from the justified criticism.
Sometimes it's incredibly difficult to accept criticism. But, compared to the consequences of doubling down on stupid threats, accepting it is much less painful.