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First Twitter Lawsuit and Twitter Privacy

July 31, 2009

Horizon Reality Group is the first company to place a lawsuit based on a Twitter comment (WTF?)

Amanda Bonnen was a tenant in one of the groups Chicago rental properties and Tweeted:

“You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment is bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it’s okay”

Horizon Reality Group responded to Ms. Bonnen’s tweet with a $50,000 defamation suit.  A $50,000 lawsuit to Bonnen who only had 20 followers.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the first Twitter lawsuit.

In my mind this suit is as bad as the suit when McDonalds was sued for having coffee that was too hot.  When will people stop being so lawsuit happy and just deal with their problems.

The idea of being a responsible social networking company is to listen to your customers.  The beauty of Twitter is that you can hear your customer and can respond accordingly.  Responding to a complaint with a lawsuit isn’t exactly what I mean by “respond accordingly”.

If you put me in Horizon’s shoes and I saw that Tweet, my reaction wouldn’t be to contact my lawyer; I would contact the tenant.  Horizon should have checked the validity of the complaint, and fixed it if necessary.  This would have turned Bennen from an unhappy tenant, to one potentially impressed with her landlord..  Now she could have spread the news to her network about how quick to react her landlords were.  They turned this opportunity for brand improvement into a very damaging situation.  This is what happens when people get greedy.

From a technology standpoint this could be a very dangerous situation.  If this lawsuit goes through and Horizon wins, it would change social media in a horrible way.  If we have a Facebook page and say that we don’t like a product, could we be opening ourselves up to a lawsuit?  Yes I know there are many requirements for a defamation case and that is an over simplified example; but think about it.

Gone would be the days when Twitter was used for input and helping brands improve and grow.  Twitter would be scourged by lawyers constantly looking for their next big score.  This would destroy Twitter and potentially social networking.  It could send us into the dark ages of communication.

This brings me to another point; privacy on Twitter.

A co-worker approached me today and said they had to erase some of their tweets because they were “inappropriate”.  Her tweets went along the lines of: “Holy sh*t I just saw (enter celebrity)”

I asked her why she was going to delete it and she said that it was unprofessional.  Yes it may be unprofessional, but the beauty of Twitter is the ability to control your personal brand.  Yes you could delete the Tweet and hope that no one ever saw it, or you could leave it and go on with your everyday uses of Twitter (conversations, information dissemination, education, etc).  To me, someone who shows some personality, some flair, along with professionalism, and intelligence have stronger personal brands than those who censor everything they say.

I want to see who you are beneath your professional side and get to know you.  If I like who you are, AND what you do, I am much more likely to hire you.

And, if someone didn’t want to hire her for her innocent swearing in her tweets; would she really want to work for someone like that?

So these two stories show us something that we should never forget.

Twitter is public.  Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want anyone else hearing.  But at the same time be yourself and speak your mind (got your work cut out for you).

And hopefully this suit won’t win.  If it does communications and social networking will change forever.

If this is ruled defamation, how many defamatory tweets have you made? Uh-oh….

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Devin permalink*
    July 31, 2009 10:49 am

    I entirely agree with Todd on this one. I think it’s important for people on social networks to remember that they are public, so you should keep your tweets/facebook’s pretty clean. But if you can’t have a little PG-13 fun, that’s when it’s getting out of hand. I know if I hire an employee, I want them to be able to carry themselves professionally, but be an enjoyable addition to the team…

  2. Ian permalink
    July 31, 2009 12:53 pm

    hey don’t knock the lawyers that is my living. DOLLA DOLLA BILLS YALL

    these companies are caught in a cache 22 because lets say someone who has a 1000 followers and they do the same thing and it is completely untrue. It is clearly libel but if you do sue it will make headlines. So you can’t win.

    This is a much bigger problem with Yelp. Yelp is basically the go to for finding places to eat, what bars to go to etc for our whole generation. So if you are a restaurant etc and someone just rips you unfairly, that is literally money out of your pocket, and restaurants right now can’t afford that. So basically the only thing to do is bribe them to get them to shut up. Someone made a joke that Yelp is where haters unite so that starts a spiral of if one person gets something because they write a bad review, someone else is going to do it, and on and on.

    So their options are sue, bribe, or ignore and lose business. So put those lawyers to work god damit.

    once again Dolla Dolla Bills yall

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