A Chicago-area woman is being sued for $50,000 by her landlord over a critical Tweet, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today. The landlord is quoted as describing itself as a "sue first and ask questions later kind of an organization." The tweet in question appeared to go to fewer than 20 friends of the sender.
Listen people, you can get sued for Tweets the same as you can get sued over something you post to a Web site or blog. You may think you are only tweeting to friends, but unless you select "Protect My Tweets" on your Twitter "account" page your tweets are both public and searchable. Facebook isn't safe, either.
Companies are already using bots to mind their Twitter reputations, alerting them when their companies are mentioned in Twitter conversation. Thus, it was only a matter of time before the lawyers showed up.
The May 12 Tweet, sent by a user named "abonnen" reads in part: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."
Well, Horizon Group Management, says it was "maliciously and wrongfully" defamed by the tweet and decided to sue the sender, identified as Amanda Bonnen. If you want to read more about this train wreck, read the original story.
My point is that when you speak online you never really know who is listening. And you may not know about the speaker, either. Maybe a criticism is valid, maybe not. Maybe you'll get sued, maybe not.
A well-heeled business clearly has the power to use its lawyers to intimidate valid criticism from individuals. At the same time, businesses and individuals deserve recourse against malicious lies, often spread anonymously online.
The moral? Be careful what you say, don't believe everything you read, and if you're a business, realize that filing suit may get you more publicity than the Tweet you are suing over.
David Coursey tweets as @techinciter, but never about his landlord.