Do people take what they read over Twitter as fact or opinion? That's one of the issues of contention in a lawsuit by designer Dawn Simorangkir against Courtney Love, over allegedly false tweets Love sent to her 40,000+ followers.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Simorangkir was demanding payment from Love for several thousand dollars worth of clothes, and Love responded (not at all unusually for her) by blasting her over Twitter.
Beginning March 17, 2009, Love announced to her followers that Simorangkir was a
...drug-pushing prostitute with a history of assault and battery who lost custody of her own child and capitalized on Love's fame before stealing from her. "She has received a VAST amount of money from me over 40,000 dollars and I do not make people famous and get raped TOO!" Love wrote.
Now Simorangkir is suing Love for defamation on the basis that these intentionally false statements destroyed her fashion career, thus entitling her to enormous damages, potentially millions of dollars.
This trial, set to begin January 18th in Los Angeles, is the first major trial about a celebrity's tweets, and lawyers for both Love and Simorangkir will have to demonstrate whether the typical Twitter user would interpret Love's tweets as facts or opinion.
The case will bring up key issues as to whether Twitter and other social media platforms can be used, particularly by public figures such as celebrities, to freely vent their opinions without fear of reprisal, or if they are regarded as credible news sources and thus should be employed with some responsibility.
Folks who might want to pay particularly close attention to this lawsuit include: Sarah Palin, Keith Olbermann, and Andrew Breitbart.