First Time Twitter Lawsuit Highlights Rep. Management, Country-Specific Regulations

   on February 17 2012 1:27 PM

As the adage goes, the Internet is written in ink, not pencil, we see time and time again how reputations can be made and lost in a matter of hours or even minutes thanks to the socially mediated world we now live in. Nobody knows this more than SEO companies that offer reputation management services as they track and resolve any brewing reputation issues before they get out of control.

The latest example is the case of Melbourne writer and TV personality Marieke Hardy. In short, social media giant Twitter is being sued for defamation for the first time in Australia due to accusations Hardy promoted on the platform. The roots of the suit are traced back to a hate blog that was directed at Hardy. The suit is not over this initial blog however, but what happened in response to it. Hardy took to Twitter to direct users to her blog where she incorrectly named the author of the hate blog aimed at her as Joshua Meggitt, a Melbourne man.

As a result, Meggitt is suing Twitter as the publisher of Hardy's tweet which was seen throughout the world. Hardy's original tweet appeared on Twitter's homepage and then was copied by many of the 60,897 followers of Hardy and other users who were participating in a global online anti-abuse campaign. Hardy and Meggitt have already reached a legal settlement worth roughly $15,000 and Hardy has issued an apology on her blog. However, Meggitt's lawyers seek damages from Twitter due to the massive exposure the accusations received from the original tweet and the potentially defamatory comments that followed the many postings.

This lawsuit holds great relevance for international SEO companies specializing in search engine optimization and reputation management in the Australian market. Depending on the ruling, much will be established in terms of the legal climate in Australia relating to defamation law and social media. Be assured, these SEO experts will be watching this result.

Different Countries, Different RulesBusiness operations must adapt from country to country, especially for tech and SEO companies. There is simply no blanket interpretation of how privacy, and in this case defamation law, impact digital platforms across all cultures and judicial systems. Although most may not think Twitter can be sued in such a way, Australian law does not protect companies as the US does, for example, in providing immunity against liability with certain computing services. As such, the platform is being sued as the publisher facilitating the tweets.

dditionally, according to the Sydney Morning Herald regarding the matter, Stuart Gibson, Meggitt's lawyer, contends that as his client did not sign on the Twitter platform, he has never agreed to their terms and conditions. Further American-based companies can be sued elsewhere. Gibson points to a 2002 case brought to the High Court where mining businessman Josep Gutnick was allowed to sue Dow Jones, a US publisher, in Australia. Again according to the Sydney Morning Herald, both Facebook and Google have also already faced suits under Australian law. With that said, Twitter may indeed be in for a battle. 

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