Twitter Defamation Lawsuit Highlights Emerging Legal Issues

You could see this coming. A Chicago landlord has suedone of its tenants for defamation for publishing a ‘tweet’ on Twitter which portrays the landlord in a less than flattering light.

Horizon Group Management filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, on July 20, 2009, against Amanda Bonnen, a tenant of Horizon residing at 4242 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago, Illinois.

The lawsuit, which can be found here, asks for $50,000 in damages for defamation.

Twitter is a micro-blogging site which allows users to communicate with their “followers” with short, 140-character posts.The site has received attention in recent months for its usage by celebrities, political leaders and even protestors and revolutionaries in countries such as Iran and Moldova.

This isn’t the first time a lawsuit involving Twitter has received attention.In July, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa dropped his lawsuit against Twitter, which sought unspecified damages because someone was pretending to be him and using Twitter to post “updates.”

In addition, earlier this month Twitter co-founder Biz Stone (@biz) disclosed publicly that the service was considering legal options after a hacker hacked into his personal email account and Techcrunch published documents which had been leaked.(Full disclosure: I attended junior high with Biz Stone, though he was a few years ahead of me.)

We can expect additional novel legal issues to continue to come up as Twitter builds in popularity.For example, defendants in lawsuits who chronicle their day-to-day with dozens of short updates about what they’re doing may find their postings used as evidence against them. As far as I know, we haven’t yet seen a criminal prosecution where Twitter has been used to establish an alibi as of yet, but I’m sure we will soon.