In a previous post, I linked to a story about a tenant who was sued for libel after posting an allegedly disparaging comment on Twitter about her apartment. The Twitter lawsuit was a hot topic on the internet for some time. Many commentators believed it was only a matter of time before Twitter resulted in a damage award for libel. Not so in this case. A Chicago judge has tossed out the lawsuit. Reports indicate that the Judge made a specific finding that the "tweet was nonactionable as a matter of law."
In this case, the tenant made a Twitter post that her apartment was moldy. Before bringing the suit, the landlord might have considered how many people actually read the Tweet. My guess is probably a few hundred at best. After the lawsuit was filed, millions read about it. At the time of the lawsuit, the landlord company issued a statement saying "we’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of organization." That is not a wise strategy in general, but in particular when it comes to an Internet defamation case. Anything involving a lawsuit and social networking has a good chance of being picked up in the media and in various places on the Internet.
The Chicago court’s ruling that the statement on Twitter failed to meet the standard for defamation seems correct if you consider Connecticut’s defamation standard, which is similar. The takeaway here is that not every negative statement qualifies as a defamatory statement. This does not mean a post on Twitter cannot constitute defamation. In fact, Twitter postings remain fair game for defamation suits, and we are likely to see more of these claims.