I love the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment provides us religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble and to file suit against our government to “redress our grievances.”
However disgusting and distasteful, the First Amendment allowed the Nazis to march in Skokie, IL and recently allowed them to adopt a highway in Colorado. The First Amendment allows the paparazzi to stalk celebrities. And the First Amendment apparently allows us to express our opinions on Twitter, as long as we don’t cross the line into defamation.
In Horizon Group v. Bonnen, a case closely watched by Twitter-geeks, a defamation case was filed against Amanda Bonnen who Tweeted about her apartment management company:
“Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
Definitely not the worst thing I have ever seen Tweeted, but a case that went viral none-the-less.
Karen Sloan writes about the decision in Dismissal in early test of Twitter libel liability:
Twitter advocates won an early victory last week when a Cook Country, Ill., circuit judge dismissed a defamation suit filed by a Chicago-area real estate management company against a former tenant who tweeted about mold in her apartment. News of the suit went viral on blogs and Twitter as social media users considered the potential ramifications.
The dismissal of the defamation suit against Bonnen doesn’t mean that tweeting can’t be defamatory, warned Richard Balough, who was one of the attorneys representing her.
“Just because you are doing something in 140 characters doesn’t mean there can’t be libel or defamation,” Balough said. “People always need to exercise caution, regardless of whether they are tweeting, talking or writing an e-mail.”
Score one, and possible two and three as complaints against Courtney Love and Kim Kardashian
work their way through the courts, for the First Amendment and Twitter.
Remember, just as we cannot shout fire in a crowded theater, we cannot libel one another on Twitter either.
You can follow me on Twitter at @heathermilligan.
(Disclaimer: Remember … I’m not a lawyer, I just hang out with them 9 to 5. The above us just my OPINION).