Before I get to the nut of this story, I just want to start by offering a little bit of advice: If you want to prevent something (i.e. an offensive topic, an insulting comment, etc.) from gaining tons and tons of unwanted exposure, don’t do the one thing that assures the supposed offense receives the most exposure it has ever had. And that one thing is filing a lawsuit. (And definitely don’t sue if it involves one of the hottest Internet services in the world.)
Unfortunately, as Chicago Now reports, Horizon Realty, and its parent company Horizon Group Management, didn’t wait around for my memo before acting on their supremely ill advised impulse to sue a young woman named Amanda Bonnen (@abonnen) for a comment she made on Twitter back in May.
Here’s the offending Tweet:
“@JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
In response to this comment, Horizon sued Bonnen for $50,000 on the grounds that she, get this, “maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the Tweet to be distributed throughout the world.”
I can totally see where the company is coming from, considering that before her account was closed, Bonnen had just 20 followers. Now just in case you were wondering what kind of company would go through the trouble of filing a lawsuit over what amounts to, basically, a sarcastic comment made to a bunch of friends, here’s your answer:
"We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.” That was Jeffrey Michael speaking with the Sun Times. The Michaels have run Horizon for over 25 classy years.
While the suit is utterly absurd, it does prompt a rather interesting debate concerning the nature of Twitter and the Tweets it produces. Sadly, I think it will take a lawsuit like this one to establish what protections apply to comments made on the service, and precisely where said comments fall among the countless other forms of popular expression.
This story has apparently generated quite a lot of buzz in the Chicago area, so expect to hear plenty more about the suit over the coming weeks.