“Twibel” is the sporty little name someone clever has come up with as a way to say “libel via Twitter.” In other words, if it would be defamation if it is published in a newspaper, it will be defamation if tweeted on Twitter. And now we have a case that has gone all the way to jury verdict on just this subject.
Courtney Love was sued by her former lawyer, Rhonda Holmes, for defamation via Twitter (Twibel is not yet an official cause of action). Holmes claimed that she had been defamed by the famous singer when Love tweeted that Holmes had been “bought off.”
Love didn’t settle the case, instead choosing to take her defense to a jury. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Love testified that she believed that her comment was true at the time she posted it. She also testified that she meant the message to be a private “direct message” to two friends and when she learned that it had been sent to the public, she quickly deleted it.
The jury was asked to decide whether Holmes proved by clear and convincing evidence that Love knew her tweet was false or doubted the truth of it. The jury returned an answer of “no” and Love prevailed.
So what’s the lesson to be learned? Well, for one, defamation cases are hard to win, regardless of the medium of the message. It often comes down to credibility of the witnesses. And, apparently, the jury believed Love when she said that she didn’t mean to make false statements about her former attorney. If nothing else, this verdict won’t prompt a wave of Twibel claims to be filed.