Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Twitter in the News

ZDNet newsletter this morning addresses whether Twitter could be blamed for its users' tweets when they are deemed unlawful, either through defamation, libel, or breaking a court order -- and the answer's seemingly -- depending on -- where you are "maybe"... or at least that nobody really knows yet.

The newsletter relays that legal analysis site Out-Law published an interesting, theoretical piece, describing how Twitter could fall foul of the law -- through no apparent fault of its own but by giving its users free reign over what they say, stemming from a case in Australia where Twitter itself is being sued by Melbourne resident Joshua Meggitt, after writer and television critic Marieke Hardy wrongly named in a tweet who she thought was behind a defamatory blog dedicated to her…

A New York Times article tells how "Mark W. Miller didn't think Cincinnati should be spending money on a streetcar project, and said so on Twitter, urging his hundreds of followers to vote against the project, which was on the local ballot last November…. What he got instead was a legal action from supporters of the streetcar project under an Ohio law that forbids false statements in political campaigns."

Miller's group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, sued the Ohio Election Commission, which hears complaints under the Ohio law, in federal court last November, seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional. [ Complaint ] What's interesting and of pertinence here is the Times' noting that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, in his official capacity, asked the court to dismiss the case on procedural grounds, but in a brief filed on his own behalf acknowledged his duty to defend his state's laws, which he had done by instructing lawyers on his staff to represent the commission, but personally being opposed to their position.

"'What really was the final straw for me,' he was quoted as saying in an interview, 'is looking at what can happen with social media, with private citizens who all they want to do it express their point of view. It's a town hall. It's a public square, really.'"

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