Twitter Jitters: Can What You Tweet About Police Land You in Jail?

Law.com:  “”SWAT teams rolling down 5th Ave. … Report received that police are nabbing anyone that looks like a protester. … Stay alert watch your friends!” Pennsylvania State Police arrested New York social worker Elliot Madison last month for being part of a group that posted messages like those on Twitter. The arrest took place in a Pittsburgh motel during protests at the Group of 20 summit. In all, almost 5,000 protesters demonstrated throughout the city during two days, and about 200 were arrested for disorderly conduct.

But Madison wasn’t among those protesting on the street. Instead, published reports say he was part of a behind-the-scenes communications team using Twitter to “direct others, specifically protesters of the G-20 summit, in order to avoid apprehension after a lawful order to disperse.” A week later, FBI agents spent 16 hours in Madison’s home executing a search warrant for evidence of federal anti-rioting law violations.”

Facebook Poke Causes Arrest for Violating an Order of Protection

Law.com:  “A court issued a protective order prohibiting Shannon D. Jackson of Hendersonville, Tenn., from ‘telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with’ another Hendersonville woman, either ‘directly or indirectly.’  On Friday, Sept. 25, Jackson was ‘extremely shocked’ when police arrested her for allegedly violating the order.  Authorities in Hendersonville say that Jackson was arrested for ‘poking’ the other woman on Facebook.”

Freeze: It’s the Twitter Police!

Wall St. Journal:  “What Eliot Ness was to mobsters and Inspector Clouseau was to fictional jewel thieves, Brendan Wilhide is to Twitter.  Yes, the popular social-networking tool now has an enforcer—public-relations specialist by day, Internet private eye by night.   With more than one-third of the NBA, hundreds of NFL players and scores of major leaguers on Twitter, Mr. Wilhide spends several hours a day determining which athletes’ accounts are phonies and which are legit.  When he confirms imposter “tweets”—the short text messages sent out to people who sign up for Twitter updates—he posts an alert on his Web site, SportsIn140.com.”

Facebook Sued for Refusing to Remove Content

Citizen Media Law Project:  “Disbarred Florida attorney and critic of the video game industry Jack Thompson, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against Facebook, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on September 29, 2009.   The Complaint asserts three counts against Facebook for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Negligent Supervision based on Facebook’s failure to remove certain postings advocating violence against Mr. Thompson.  The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages ‘in excess of ten million dollars and punitive damages in excess of thirty million dollars’ for each count.”

See the complaint filed by the plaintiff.

Cyberbullying Bill Gets Chilly Reception

Wired.com: “Proposed legislation demanding up to two years in prison for electronic speech meant to ‘coerce, intimidate, harass or cause substantial emotional distress to a person’ was met with little enthusiasm by a House subcommittee on Wednesday.  Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California) lobbied fellow lawmakers of a House Judiciary subcommittee to back her proposed legislation dubbed the ‘Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act.’ In its first congressional hearing, Sanchez said the proposal was designed to target the cyberbullying that led to the 2006 suicide of the 13-year-old Meier of Missouri.”

Social Networks and Personal Injury Suits

Times have changed.  We all know the adage “think before your speak.”  In the age of social media we now have “think before you tweet.”  Millions of people are using social media like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to communicate.  Sometimes, information displayed online can cause the author and/or website owner to become the defendant in a lawsuit.

Employers, Employees, Social Networks & the Law

Arizona Republic:  Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are great ways to communicate, but the legalities are  uncertain when employers monitor or restrict what employees say about employers online.

Valley attorneys say employers have the right to monitor and restrict employees’ social networking posts related to their business, including disciplining and terminating employees for negative posts via Arizona’s employment laws. But those same lawyers also caution that pursuing restrictive social networking policies can open a Pandora’s box of public relations and legal problems, including privacy and discrimination lawsuits.

What Are You Doing Legally on Twitter?

Attorneys William Coats and Jennifer Gossain wrote an article called “What Are You Doing Legally on Twitter?” that all Twitter-ers might want to read.   Although Twitter is relatively new to the web, there have been lawsuits filed based on statements made in tweets.  Despite being limited to 140 characters, a single tweet can violate some-body’s right of publicity or defame a person or entity.

Amanda Bonnen . . .  had merely 20 followers.  But the small number of followers did not prevent this ordinary Chicago woman from being sued for $50,000 for her tweet.  This past May, Bonnen tweeted, “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you?  Horizon realty thinks it’s OK.”  Horizon Management Group took offense to Bonnen’s tweet and filed suit against her in Cook County, Ill., on July 20, 2009. Horizon alleged that Bonnen’s public tweet is libel per se and asked for damages in the amount of $50,000.  Bonnen has since closed her Twitter account.

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