As I drank my morning coffee and skimmed the news, I read that Courtney Love has settled a lawsuit for $430,000 over a tweet that she had written regarding a fashion designer. Even though $430,000 is not a lot of money for a celebrity like Courtney Love, for most people spending so much money over a tweet is ridiculous and not feasible. Keep in mind that the $430,000 does not cover her attorney’s fee! This got me to thinking about social networking sites and litigation.
We all are aware of the benefits of social networking sites. You get to keep in touch with people, inform others of what you are doing, and overall just use it to be in the “know.” However, communicating in cyberspace also exposes people to many risks. The most common risks known are being prone to scams and identity thefts because your information is out there. However, with updating your social networking profile, there comes another risk—the possibility of being sued.
People often say that you can sue over anything. Well, it sure does seem that way. Especially when you learn that Courtney Love paid $430,000 over a 140 character tweet! In reality though, causes of actions such as defamation can cause people to pay a hefty amount. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy for people to defame others. With a few key strokes and the resulting words causing harm to the reputation of others, a person can very quickly find themselves a lawyer’s office trying to get out of a lawsuit they never thought they would be in.
The reality is that when people update their Facebook or Twitter statuses with opinionated views, it rarely crosses their mind that they could be sued over their Twitter tweet or Facebook update. What does this tell us? Do social networking sites have a responsibility to educate their users? It is necessary for them to warn their users that they may be sued over an update?
I feel that they do not. Rather, people need to educate themselves on any unfavorable consequence that may result from their online actions. After all, if we are all adult enough to use social networking sites and consent to having our information out there, then we are adult enough to educate ourselves on the dangers of our tweets and Facebook updates. In fact, I believe it is out responsibility to do so. Especially if we want to enjoy our Facebook and Twitter sites, rather than sit in a courtroom dreading the day we joined.