New media is still new to many, including the law:
In a landmark case that will set a major precedent for online speech, Courtney Love has become the first person ever in the United States to go to trial over a libelous tweet and be cleared by a jury.
This is a particularly noteworthy case as it is a sign of the legitimacy of Twitter as a publishing platform in the eyes of the law. The standards of traditional publishing are now being applied to the ephemerality of online commentary — and that’s good for freedom of speech because it’s bringing an established means of legal recourse to both those speaking and those spoken ill of on social media.
To offer some background, in 2010, the volatile Love fired off a tweet stating her lawyer at the time, Rhonda Holmes, had been “bought off.”
“@noozjunkie I was f***ing devastated when Rhonda J Holmes Esq of san diego was bought off @fairnewsspears perhaps you can get a quote.”
Love was upset that Holmes refused to help her take legal action against the managers of her late husband Kurt Cobain’s estate. In Holmes’s $8 million lawsuit, her lawyers argued that Love deliberately used her “fame and influence to reach millions of people in attempt to cause irreparable damage to plaintiff’s business, name, and reputation.”
Last Friday, the jury ruled that while Love’s tweet contained false information and naturally harmed Holmes’s reputation, the rock star did not know that it was false and therefore not guilty of libel.