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Unpublished Paper
Twibel Law: What Defamation and Its Remedies Look Like in the Age of Twitter
ExpressO (2012)
  • Ellyn M Angelotti, Stetson University
Abstract
In six years, the Twitter audience has quickly grown to 140 million users who can instantly publish to a global audience. The informal nature of conversations on Twitter makes it a ripe environment for the spreading of rumors and potential falsehoods. While a few Twibel suits have been brought to the forefront, the courts have yet to rule on a case in the United States. This article presents a hypothetical situation where an influential Twitter user posts false content about a local restaurant that rapidly spreads online. This results in the restaurant's demise. The defamed party considers bringing a defamation claim, but realizes the remedy would not provide proper relief for the damage that has already been done via social networks. Throughout its history, defamation law has aimed to strike a balance between free speech and protecting the reputations of others. Especially in the past half-century, the courts have looked specifically at the role and status of the defamed. Applying traditional defamation law to Twitter requires classifying online users and their speech in new ways that have yet to be clarified. Second, the article explores the passive publication process of traditional media, and how Twitter has changed this process by inviting a new class of publishers who as a result have increased the pressure of being first to publish, often to the detriment of truth and accuracy. Third, while traditional methods may be adequate when the defendant is a mainstream media organization, the existing legal framework is less effective in the Twitter environment, one that is fast, flexible and free. Further, the global reach of Twitter means international law may impact domestic Twibel decisions. This article concludes that it is necessary to find a remedy for Twibel that uses defamation law as a tool and not an obstacle. Twibel needs an adaptable remedy that encourages civil discourse among users and deters defamatory speech on Twitter. It is crucial that this remedy considers how technology has fundamentally changed they way people create and consume news and information.
Keywords
  • Defamation,
  • Libel,
  • Slander,
  • Social Networks,
  • Media,
  • News,
  • Journalism,
  • Media Law
Disciplines
Publication Date
April 13, 2012
Citation Information
Ellyn M Angelotti. "Twibel Law: What Defamation and Its Remedies Look Like in the Age of Twitter" ExpressO (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ellyn_angelotti/1/