That's something Amanda Bonnen is discovering the hard way.
In May, the Chicago resident did what many of Twitter's millions of users do--she tweeted a complaint. Specifically, she tweeted THIS complaint:
Today, Horizon Group Management filed a lawsuit against her, alleging that her statement damaged the company's business reputation.
According to the complaint filed in Cook County court today, Bonnen "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the Tweet to be distributed throughout the world."
Bonnen has 20 followers on Twitter.
What intrigues me about this lawsuit is a number of things:
1) I knew it was coming. I KNEWWW the Twitter suits were coming, and I like that this proves I'm psychic.
2) It begs this question: What IS a tweet anyway? Is it really considered publishing? Is it a conversation between friends in a public forum, like the electronic version of a coffeeshop, where you can gripe privately but have your gripes overheard? No one considers that defamation. And for that matter, does anyone actually claim that one-liners on Twitter are truth? After all, when you tweet, you type into a text box that asks, "What are you doing?" So what does an assertion on Twitter count for, anyway? Isn't it just an opinion? Isn't it stream of consciousness? Isn't it called a Twitter "stream" for a reason?
3) And plenty of companies these days are using the public discussion on Twitter to their advantage. Comcast is one that jumps to mind. I have friends who've had their Comcast complaints resolved over Twitter, and it all began with a 140-character complaint issued over Twitter. So it's interesting to note different companies' reactions to their customers' usage of social media. Some engage and fix the problems, and some decide that apparently, it is a more efficient use of company time, money, and (hu)manpower to sue over 140 words that got beamed out to 20+ followers.
Of course, it's not hard to guess what I think about the whole situation. What do YOU think?
UPDATED: Rounding up the buzz... Will one Chicago woman's Tweet cost her $50,000?
Amanda Bonnen's Twitter account has been closed. This morning I got a call from WGN radio, asking about how to get in touch with her. So Amanda, if you're reading, a lot of people out there are interested in hearing your take on the situation. Anyone out there who knows how to get in touch with her, feel free shoot me an email or, for that matter, a tweet.
I never expected the story to heat up as fast as it has, but we've got bloggers weighing in left and right; Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has shared his thoughts on the lawsuit. Chicago Breaking News, WGN-TV, CBS2, Windy Citizen, the Sun-Times, Huffington Post all have picked up on what's happening.
What I'm hearing generally from your comments on this blog and the comments I've scanned and read is that the company seems to have heaped on itself more bad press from its handling of the lawsuit than from Amanda's original tweet.
Agree? Disagree? Keep the conversation going.
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