Saturday, August 01, 2015

Actor James Woods fires defamation suit against Twitter user (apparently anonymous); was it triggered by one tweet?

Actor James Woods has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against a supposedly anonymous Twitter user, as reported in Salon here
The user had reportedly “harassed” Woods, raising the question as to why Woods didn’t simply block the user.  The user had reportedly made a “defamatory” statement in response to a “Real James Woods” tweet about Caitlyn Jenner, and about the Planned Parenthood controversy (regarding fetal tissue).  Woods decided that a legal line had been crossed.
Salon asks if footage from Woods’s 1988 film “The Boost” could be shown in court.

Hollywood Reporter has a more detailed story here
Actual defamation litigation for individual twitter posts seems to be rare, otherwise Twitter use would be much more risky (and court dockets would be filled with nuisance cases).  It may be that a pattern matters.  But it seems that the identity of the poster is discoverable.  With Facebook, the “real identity” policy would seem to prevent anonymous libel.

But in defamation law, the actual “fact” of defamation can mean that often the plaintiff does not have to show real injury, just falsehood, because showing further injury could compound the harm. That’s one aspect of the “Rolling Stone” cases in Virginia that is disturbing.  On the other hand, the Supreme Court has said that the defendant must have behaved unreasonably and sometimes may have to show defendant had been reckless or had shown actual malice.

A good question would be, would an "umbrella" policy cover the Twitter user, or should such insurance be expected to, because of possible anti-selection? ,

Update: Aug. 31

Twitter has refused to identify an anonymous user in conjunction with the suit, Buzzfeed here. 

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