In a landmark case for social media, a Los Angeles jury has found that singer Courtney Love did not defame her former attorney on Twitter. The case stemmed from a Tweet Love penned in 2010 in which she claimed that her lawyer at the time, Rhonda Holmes, had been “bought off.”
While the jury found that Love wrote the Tweet and that it was likely damaging in nature to Holmes, they concluded that front-woman for the band Hole did not know it was false.
The so-called “Twibel” case gained national attention since it could set precedent in terms of how speech is treated on a new social platform like Twitter. Social media expert Ellyn Angelotti tells NBCNews.com that the she was surprised by the decision.
“Because in a traditional analysis of defamation, the tweet is a published statement to a third party of and concerning another person, I am surprised. The only part I was not sure about (was) how they could prove that it damaged the lawyer’s reputation. I know a lot of people said it could be seen as an opinion. And maybe the decision hinged on that the lawyer did not prove there was sufficient harm to her reputation.”
The case is likely to be appealed, and could progress to the Supreme Court in an effort to answer key legal questions about cases involving comments in social media.
Love, the widow of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in Seattle in April 1994, claimed during the trial that she was a “computer retard” and didn’t fully understand how to use Twitter at the time. She deleted the offending Tweet about an hour after it was posted, and said at trial that she had intended it as a direct message rather than a public posting.
“I feel really good,” Love told Spin magazine after the jury released its verdict. “I am relieved. I am really happy to have had good counsel for the first time in 24 years.”