The Internet and social networking concept is constantly changing. Various venues like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Active Rain have grown in leaps and bounds. Hundreds of thousands of users posting millions and millions of words a day.
Some are humorous. Some are trivial. Some are damaging and in some instances are intended to do harm to an individual or business.
The issue of Freedom of Speech is often bandied about and used as justification for saying the most uncomplimentary things. The First Amendment does not protect tabloids when they write scathing stories about public figures. Why would an individual believe they are insulated when the press is not?
People feel that they are stealth and protected behind their keyboards. They post things that are libelous, defaming and potentially destructive to ones livelihood.
They post under the assumption that they are immune to any prosecution or responsibility for their words. They feel because they are not "in a public setting" no one can make them accountable for their words.
Recently two lawsuits have set a precedence which should be reviewed by anyone who is tempted to write a negative review of a person or business.
Horizon Realty Group in Chicago, Ill sued a former tenant for $50,000.00 over her comments on Twitter concerning mold in her apt.
"According to the complaint filed in Cook County court today, Bonnen "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet on Twitter, thereby allowing the Tweet to be distributed throughout the world." (source)
Courtney Love was recently sued by a fashion designer for her outrageous rants made on Twitter and My Space.
"According to a libel claim filed by Simorangkir in Los Angeles Superior Court March 26, Love used Twitter to disseminate "an obsessive and delusional crusade" of malicious libel against her. Simorangkir, who's based in Austin, Texas, also claims Love slandered her on MySpace." (source)
Lawsuits resulting from social networking are the new frontier for lawyers. Surely more and more of these suits will crop up when social networking sites are misused by members who lash out provocatively.
When a business or profession is involved, those who can allege potential damage can win hefty awards. Individuals who deliberately attempt to adversely impact another persons professional or personal reputation will find the folly may cost them much more than they bargained for.